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Men’s Soccer: In-state rivalry renewed against No. 22 Hoosiers

Greg Arbogast | Thursday, October 16, 2008

After recent matches against out-of-state opponents, No. 9 Notre Dame will travel to Bloomington Thursday to renew its rivalry with No. 22 Indiana.

The Hoosiers await the Irish in what will be the 29th installment of the series between the two schools and the eighth consecutive year they have met. Indiana holds a 22-5-1 edge in the all-time series, but Notre Dame has enjoyed a recent run of success, going 4-4 against the Hoosiers under coach Bobby Clark’s tenure.

If recent signs are any indication, the Irish have a good shot to move above .500 against Indiana with Clark at the helm.

The Hoosiers enter Thursday’s game with a 6-4-2 record and a 2-0 loss to Michigan State in the team’s most recent game on Oct. 12. Indiana is currently averaging only slightly more goals scored than conceded at a 1.33 to 1.25 clip.

The Hoosiers’ slow start is somewhat surprising given that they return nine starters from a team that won the Big Ten title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007. Clark, however, said he still feels that Notre Dame’s in-state rival will provide a stern test.

“We’ve seen Indiana play a few times this year because we played down at their tournament and they played up at ours earlier in the season,” Clark said. “They are a very good team and they are similar to us. This will be a big test for us because they always work really hard. They are coming off a loss so they’ll be ready for us.”

While Indiana enters Thursday’s game in less than convincing form, the Irish have impressed with their recent play. After a two-game losing streak to Louisville and Michigan, Notre Dame seems to have regained the early-season form that saw the Irish rise as high as No. 3 in the polls. Last week, the Irish defeated Michigan State and Pittsburgh by a combined score of 7-1.

The catalyst for last week’s impressive results was a dynamic offensive attack that has helped the Irish overwhelm opponents at times this season. Notre Dame is currently averaging 2.5 goals per game, which is good for second in the nation.

“It’s a fun team to watch,” Clark said after the Pittsburgh game. “We have a lot of attacking personalities and very skillful players. It’s hard to single anybody out. On any given day somebody different can step up.”

Ten different Irish players have found the back of the net so far this season. Despite the balanced team scoring, senior forward Bright Dike has emerged as the go-to attacker, scoring in six consecutive games. Dike currently leads the team in shots, goals and points.

Thursday’s begins at 7:30 p.m. Clark said he sees the dynamic atmosphere that awaits as a positive for his team.

“This will be a great opportunity because it will have the feel of a road (NCAA) Tournament game,” Clark said. “It will be a fantastic opportunity to give our guys a chance to play in that environment. It will be especially good for some of our younger guys who haven’t had a chance yet to play in an environment like that.”