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Dike streak hits six games

Matt Gamber | Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kudos to my fellow soccer beat writer Greg Arbogast.

In a Sept. 25 column, he praised the play of Irish forward Bright Dike and predicted bigger things ahead for the senior, who at the time had four goals through seven games.

Looks like Greg got it right – Dike has now scored in six straight games, including Notre Dame’s last five since the article was published.

Dike’s physical dominance has been astounding, especially considering he had just four career starts entering this year and didn’t play at all as a junior.

He leads the team with nine goals and 21 points, and he has taken twice as many shots (54) as anyone on the team – junior midfielder Michael Thomas, Notre Dame’s second leading scorer, has scored six goals on 27 shots.

And Dike’s emergence as the Irish’s go-to scorer has been crucial for a team that entered the season facing the mighty task of replacing Joe Lapira, the 2006 Hermann Trophy winner as college soccer’s MVP.

Though Dike certainly has a lot to accomplish before his numbers can be compared favorably with Lapira’s, his current scoring streak is just one game short of one Lapira pulled off during his award-winning junior season. Lapira scored 22 goals that year to lead the country.

But while their numbers may end up being similar, Dike is a much different player than Lapira was for the Irish. At 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, Lapira was a quick, energetic forward who was savvy in taking on defenders and finding scoring opportunities.

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Dike is Notre Dame’s biggest regular player, and he has proven to be a physical force.

He can both use his size to outmuscle defenders in the box and his speed to outplay opponents in space. And I know if I was an opposing keeper, I wouldn’t want anything to do with some of the rockets that leave Dike’s foot.

And, to risk sounding redundant, Dike’s best may still be to come.

Irish coach Bobby Clark said so before Notre Dame’s last game, a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh Saturday in which Dike put the game out of reach with an unassisted second-half goal that made it 3-1.

“There’s still more to come with him, and that’s the exciting thing,” Clark said. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement, and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

He proved in high school that he can be a big-game player when as a junior, he led his team to a come-from-behind win in the state title game with three second-half goals. Dike already has two game-winning goals this season for the Irish.

If Greg didn’t unveil Dike’s potential three weeks ago, Dike’s certainly done it himself on the field.

Now the real question – can anyone stop him?

The views expressed in the column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Matt Gamber at [email protected]