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Men’s Soccer: Irish face St. John’s in Big East second round

Kate Gales | Friday, November 4, 2005

In sports, there aren’t always second chances.

But the Irish are getting one this weekend as they face conference foe St. John’s in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Jamaica, N.Y.

“I think the guys are very excited to back to St. John’s because we felt that was one of the games where we really didn’t acquit ourselves too well,” Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark said. “Same team, same venue – if we’re lucky we’ll see if we can do better.”

The Irish lost to St. John’s 2-1 on Oct. 16 in an early-season road match. It was the Big East opener for both teams and featured St. John’s at a No. 10 ranking and the Irish at No. 16.

Playing at St. John’s is difficult for any visitor, and the Irish have never won at the site.

“It’s because you play on field turf and you’ve got to adjust your game … there’s certainly things you can do that certainly, I think we can do better,” Clark said. “I don’t think we did such a good job the last time and there’s a few things I think we feel we can improve on.”

St. John’s is 9-2-3 against Notre Dame all-time. However, the Irish knocked off the Red Storm to win the Big East tournament title in 2003.

The Irish finished with a 6-4-1 record in the competitive Big East. The conference had four teams ranked in the latest Soccer America top 25 – No. 5 Connecticut, No. 20 South Florida, No. 23 St. John’s and No. 24 Seton Hall.

“Every game’s tight, if you look at the Big East that’s the way it is,” Clark said. “Let’s be honest … if you can just take one game back and you’re pretty well in there.”

The Irish tied Syracuse 0-0 in the first round of playoffs, but won 4-2 in penalty kicks. Last year, the Irish were eliminated from the Big East tournament by Seton Hall in penalty kicks.

Justin McGeeney, Ian Etherington, Kurt Martin and Matt Besler scored in the shootout for the Irish, with Besler notching his first career goal to clinch the match.

The Irish were coming off a dominating 4-0 victory over then-No. 16 Seton Hall as Notre Dame finished the regular season on a high note after a hard-fought 3-0 loss to No. 4 Indiana in a regional rivalry match.

If they win Saturday, the Irish will advance to the conference’s Final Four. The semifinals and final match will take place next weekend at the University of Connecticut.

Past this weekend’s game, the Irish are fighting for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. By winning the conference tournament the team can receive an automatic bid. They are in solid position to make the tournament now but have not clinched a spot. Another win, especially over a program like St. John’s, could make their case for the selection committee.

They know what’s at stake, but the Irish are continuing to take it one game at a time.

“The mood’s been good all season, it’s been strong, it’s been a strong mentality,” Clark said. “This has all the makings of a very good team – I don’t think there’s any question in anyone’s mind about that, certainly not the coaching staff.”