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Men’s Soccer: Dike’s golden goal lifts ND in Big East tourney

Greg Arbogast | Monday, November 10, 2008

The conditions Saturday night signaled much more than the impending winter weather. They highlighted that NCAA tournament play is just around the corner, and No. 11 Notre Dame appears to be rounding into form at just the right time.

Amidst brutal conditions, the Irish knocked off No. 23 Louisville 1-0 Saturday night at Alumni Field to advance to the Big East tournament semifinals.

After a midseason swoon in which Notre Dame went 3-4-1, the Irish have righted the ship with consecutive victories over Georgetown, West Virginia and now Louisville.

“It’s very important,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said of the team’s most recent win. “Every win we can get could help with the [NCAA] seeding, so that’s hugely important.”

As Saturday’s game progressed, it looked less likely that the Irish would find the breakthrough goal they needed. With a stiff wind blowing south to north, Notre Dame played the first half with the wind to its backs and spent most of the first 45 minutes in Louisville’s half of the field.

Junior midfielder Justin Morrow had the best opportunity in the 14th minute. Senior defender Jack Traynor over-hit a free kick that was headed out for a goal kick, but fellow defender Matt Besler managed to head the ball back across the six-yard box. Morrow was there to deliver a stinging half-volley, but Cardinals keeper Andre Boudreaux deflected the shot out for a corner kick.

The Irish held a 7-4 advantage in shots and a 3-0 edge in corners in the first half, but the teams entered the locker room deadlocked at zero.

The second half saw Notre Dame confronting the same wind that had blown back many potential Cardinals’ counterattacks in the first half. Clark said the wind affected his team’s play early in the second half.

“The only mistake we made for a little while was we tried to kick the ball into the wind,” Clark said. “We had to get the ball down and play. Once we got down and still played, we looked as though we could make chances.”

The Irish did create multiple chances on the ground, but ironically enough, their loan goal came off a ball into the teeth of the win.

With 10 minutes remaining, freshman defender Aaron Maund clipped a high floating ball from midfield towards the 18-yard box. Sophomore forward Jeb Brovsky managed to flick the ball into fellow striker Bright Dike’s path. The senior controlled the bouncing ball and made no mistake sending a thunderous strike past Boudreaux from the top of the box.

“To be fair, the big fella had had a pretty average game, but it’s just as you’re thinking what’s he going to do that he hits a shot and makes a goal,” Clark said of Dike. “And that’s the big thing for a striker. The big man’s always on to score a goal, and in a big game in a tournament, that’s what it’s all about.”

The Irish went into defensive mode for the final 10 minutes, and they managed to largely neutralize the Cardinals attack.

With under a minute to play, however, Louisville received a free kick 30 yards from goal. The ensuing play brought shades of a hockey team pulling their goalie as Boudreaux sprinted up the field to support his team’s last attack, but Notre Dame managed to clear the cross to close out the game.