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ND MEN’S SOCCER: Spartans host inconsistent Irish

Kate Gales | Tuesday, October 11, 2005

After a rocky season, the Irish have six games remaining to make their case for the NCAA Tournament.

That final stretch begins today as the Irish face off against Michigan State at 3 p.m. in East Lansing, Mich.

After a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Connecticut on Saturday, when the Irish controlled play but couldn’t cement the win, there were still positives to come from the play.

“I think we showed a lot of character on Saturday,” head coach Bobby Clark said. “We’ve done it in other games, but I thought Saturday we were very strong … I don’t think this team will ever give up. I’m pretty confident that this is a tough team.”

The season has been up and down for the Irish, who have had 10 games this season decided by one goal. Notre Dame has won six of those matches, but the close games have taken their toll.

However, losses like Connecticut could have serious postseason repercussions.

“Obviously I’m not discouraged because the team played very well,” Clark said. “Obviously you’re disappointed at not winning, certainly not discouraged. You’re always disappointed when you don’t win, especially when you feel you play well.”

The single goal scored Saturday was the first goal or assist for defender Ben Crouse. In all, nine different players have scored goals for the Irish this year, with midfielders and defenders often getting involved in the action deep in their opponent’s territory.

Some of their confidence can come from goalkeeper Chris Cahill’s strong play. The first-year starter has posted five shutouts on the season, compared to Spartans goalie Jason Tillman’s two.

The Irish are 7-4-1 (3-3-1 Big East), and the Spartans are 4-3-4 overall (1-1-1 Big Ten). Michigan State is coming off a 2-0 win over Ohio State and are led by explosive forward Ryan McMahen, a preseason All-American.

“They’re a strong team, they’re a big team,” Clark said.

But the final six games of the season will be important for the Irish realizing the most important of their preseason goals: making the NCAA Tournament.

“That’s the first hallmark of a good season is to make the tournament so I’d say that’s our main goal at the moment,” Clark said. “I think this team definitely has the ability of a tournament team.”