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MEN’S SOCCER: WVU set to tangle with ND Irish

Kevin Brennan | Friday, September 30, 2005

When you lose just one game, it can be hard to forget. Notre Dame certainly hasn’t forgotten.

In 2004, the Irish came up short in only one conference match en route to the Big East regular season title. Notre Dame (6-3, 2-2 Big East) can exact some revenge Saturday when it hosts West Virginia at 7 p.m. at Alumni Field.

“We are very aware that they beat us last year,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “They were the only team that beat us in the Big East, so we’d love to get that sorted out.”

The Mountaineers topped the Irish 1-0 last season in Morgantown, Va. despite the fact Notre Dame recorded nine more shots in the game. West Virginia ended 2004 in seventh place in the Big East but returns 21 of 26 letter winners this year.

The Mountaineers have had a fairly solid start to 2005, going 6-4 over their first ten games. Notre Dame and West Virginia have two opponents in common so far this year – SMU and No. 1 New Mexico. The Mountaineers lost both games, while the Irish beat SMU 4-1 and tied New Mexico 1-1 in a season-opening exhibition.

Saturday’s game represents the start of an important conference stretch for the Irish. At 2-2, Notre Dame has already doubled its conference loss-total from a year ago. After Saturday, the team will travel to Marquette and then return home next weekend for an important tilt with conference power Connecticut.

The Big East is one of the nation’s top conferences every year, and an easy foe is hard to come by. Four Big East teams are currently ranked in the NSCAA top 25 poll, and Notre Dame just fell out of the poll this week.

Clark loves playing in such a fiercely competitive league.

“There’s no easy games in this league,” the coach said. “It’s great. I think our league prepares you well for the post-season. If you do well in our league, you know you are going to do well.”

Notre Dame does have some question marks heading into Saturday’s game. Senior tri-captain Dale Rellas sat out last game with an injury, while fellow defender Jack Traynor had to be taken out midway through the second half. Both players are questionable for Saturday.

If Rellas cannot go, Greg Dalby will again leave the midfield to join Ryan Miller and Ben Crouse in the back. Fellow freshman Matt Besler would take Traynor’s place.

In Wednesday’s win over Baylor, the Irish took an early 1-0 lead but could not find the net for the rest of the game. The Irish are looking to play more aggressively against West Virginia Saturday.

“First off, its big to have a good start and to come out strong,” leading scorer Nate Norman said. “If we get a lead, we want to be able to hold on to that lead, but at the same time keep attacking and keep wanting to score more goals.”