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Men’s Soccer: Eagle hunting

Matt Gamber | Thursday, September 11, 2008

When No. 5 Notre Dame hosts Marquette tonight at 7 p.m. in both teams’ Big East openers, the Irish (3-1-0) will enter having scored seven goals in their last two games compared to the Golden Eagles’ (1-0-2) zero.

But that doesn’t mean it will be an easy victory for the home side, Irish coach Bobby Clark said.

“They’ve played six games [including exhibition matches] and haven’t lost,” he said. “To come in unbeaten … they’re as confident as they can be. They’re a good side – it’ll be a tough game.”

Notre Dame will try to ride the momentum of a three-game win streak during which the Irish have outscored opponents 11-2. The Irish were shut out in their season opener against Akron 3-0.

Marquette has gone in the opposite direction. After handling Bryant University in their first match Sept. 1, the Golden Eagles played Penn and Columbia to scoreless draws at the Marquette Invitational over the weekend.

Clark, however, isn’t fooled by those statistics.

“They played the last game with a man down and still dominated the whole way,” he said. “I watched the whole tape – they just didn’t score. We’ve got to go into it with the mentality that we’ve got to play 90 minutes. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it goes beyond that.”

The Irish came into the season with the mighty task of replacing their leading scorer, All-American Joe Lapira. They have done so thus far by spreading the wealth, as seven different players have scored goals.

Senior forward Bright Dike leads the team with three goals while junior midfielders Michael Thomas and Justin Morrow each has scored twice.

While the Irish offense has gotten much of the credit for Notre Dame’s early season success, senior goalkeeper Andrew Quinn has played well since a shaky first start. He has given up just two goals in Notre Dame’s last three games after battling with junior Philip Tuttle for the starting spot all preseason.

“We’ve got two very good goalkeepers,” Clark said. “I’m trying to let our defense settle in with just one of them, but I hope I can give both of them a run. All four of our goalkeepers come to practice every day and perform very well. We’re lucky for that.”

Though Notre Dame surely looks the part of the favorite on paper for tonight’s tilt, the Irish are taking nothing for granted as they begin their quest to repeat as Big East Blue Division champions.

“Anyone who’s ever coached or played in the Big East knows there’s no easy wins in our league,” Clark said. “It’s going to be very competitive. You’ve got to stick with your [game] and hope it works your way.”

Notre Dame will continue its Big East slate when the Irish host St. John’s Sept. 19.