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Men’s Soccer: Three’s company

Greg Arbogast | Friday, September 12, 2008

Last year Notre Dame won a share of the Big East Blue division title. If Thursday night was any indication, the Irish are in no mood to give up their crown.

No. 5 Notre Dame welcomed visiting Marquette with a convincing 4-1 defeat at Alumni Field in both team’s first game of Big East conference play.

The Irish started the game with a flurry of offensive chances serving multiple dangerous balls into the box, but it wasn’t until the 17th minute that Notre Dame broke through. A couple of one-touch passes found wide midfielder Dave Donahue, who served a cross into the path of a crashing Bright Dike. The forward’s volley was blocked, but Donahue collected the clearance, took a touch, and beat Marquette keeper Matt Pyzdrowski near post.

The rest of the first half saw the game settle down into a more back-and-forth contest between both teams, and the Irish would enter the locker room with a 1-0 halftime lead. Irish coach Bobby Clark said he wasn’t satisfied with the halftime lead.

“We talk about coming out strong every game, and we certainly drew [the players] attention to the fact that their performance dropped off quite drastically in the second half of the first half,” Clark said.

Clark’s words certainly seemed to re-energize his squad as Notre Dame turned a tight game into a blowout within the first 10 minutes of the second half. At the center of it was once again was Donahue.

Four minutes into the second half, defender Jack Traynor hit an in-swinging free kick flicked on by midfielder Michael Thomas into a scrum of bodies in front of the Golden Eagles net. Donahue was quickest to react and jammed the loose ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the evening.

Six minutes later the junior midfielder turned provider as his low cross was received at the top of the box by Thomas, whose deft touch created enough space to fire far-post past Pyzdrowski. Donahue would complete his evening in the 64th minute when he poked home a loose ball after reaching it first.

“You score one goal and you’re happy as a wide midfield player, so to score three goals is special,” Clark said of Donahue’s hat trick. “[Donahue’s] served his time coming off the bench. Now he’s in a starter’s role, and he’s really taking advantage of that.”

Although Donahue’s performance will be most remembered for his hat trick, the wide midfielder also looked dangerous in his more traditional role of getting wide and serving balls into the box – a point that Donahue emphasized.

“My main job is to be stepping on their backs and midfielders, just taking a touch and serving balls into the box to our big guys,” Donahue said. “Last year, my role was more coming off the bench and raising the tempo. This year I’ve earned a starting spot, and hopefully I can keep the tempo raised from the start.”

About the only negative on the evening for Coach Clark and his squad came near the end of the first half when starting forward Jeb Brovsky left the game because of an injury. Clark said Brovsky felt he could have returned in the second half, but the doctors wanted to him out as a precaution.

Regardless, Brovsky should have plenty of time to let his injury heal as Notre Dame’s next game isn’t until Sept. 19, when the Irish welcome St. John’s to Alumni Field.