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Men’s Soccer: No. 5 St. John’s, ‘Cuse come to South Bend

Greg Arbogast | Friday, September 19, 2008

The last time the No. 5 team came to Alumni Field, it walked away with its tail between its legs when Notre Dame beat then No. 5 South Florida 5-1 Sept. 7.

Now it’s St. John’s turn.

The No. 5 ranked Red Storm kick off a grueling weekend for the No. 3 ranked Irish, who will also play undefeated Syracuse on Sunday. Combined, Notre Dame’s two opponents sport an 8-0-3 record on the season, and St. John’s and Syracuse have outscored their opponents by the combined score of 17-2. Irish coach Bobby Clark has noticed.

“This is possibly our hardest weekend of the year so far,” Clark said. “St. John’s is always a very good team, and they’re hard to play against. Syracuse looks very, very good as well. This is one of their best teams in many years. It could be a fabulous weekend for us if we do our stuff right.”

The Red Storm has been especially impressive this season compiling their 5-0-1 record against a litany of talented opponents. In their last game, St. John’s dismantled No. 19 Virginia Tech 3-0. Earlier in the season, the Red Storm defeated No. 18 Virginia and No. 12 Dartmouth and tied No. 2 Boston College.

Part of St. John’s early-season success may be due to the squad’s continuity. The Red Storm return nine starters from last year’s team that went 9-7-5 before bowing out against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

Syracuse will begin this weekend putting their 3-0-2 record on the line at Marquette Friday night. Unlike St. John’s, the Orange have not played a particularly grueling non-conference schedule. So far, Syracuse’s schedule reads as follows: Canisius, Colgate, UNC-Wilmington, Florida Gulf Coast and Monmouth.

Friday’s contest against Marquette – the same team that Notre Dame beat 4-1 last Thursday night – will help determine how great a threat the Orange pose to the Irish.

The way Notre Dame has played the past few weekends, however, no team seems to pose much of a threat to the Irish. After dropping their season opener to Akron 3-0, Notre Dame has won four straight matches by the combined score of 15-3.

The Irish’s average of 3.75 goals per game in their last four matches has put to rest much doubt that the team would be unable to find scoring options after the graduation of last year’s starting forwards. Notre Dame has found goal-scoring from a multitude of sources this season as four players have already scored multiple goals. Junior midfielder Dave Donahue currently leads the Irish with four goals.

Friday’s game versus St. John’s will begin at 7 p.m. while Sunday’s contest against Syracuse starts at 1 p.m.