Men’s Soccer: Back on track?
Michael Blasco | Friday, October 2, 2009
No matter which way you slice it, it’s gut check time for the Irish.
Notre Dame (4-4-1, 2-2-0 Big East) concludes this week’s three-game Big East home stand with a match against conference foe Seton Hall (4-4-1, 1-2-1 Big East) tonight at 7 at Alumni Stadium. The unranked Irish, who were ranked in the top 10 in many preseason polls, are hoping to climb back above .500 in conference play after a middling start to the season.
Irish coach Bobby Clark views tonight’s match as an opportunity to get his team back on track.
“[Seton Hall] is another Big East test, and, as we have already found out, there are no easy matches in our conference,” Clark said. “We tied Seton Hall last year and hopefully we can go one better this year. I always say that both winning and losing can become habits so it is vitally important that we get into good habits starting Friday.”
After blowing out rival Michigan to the start the season, Notre Dame traveled to Bloomington for the adias/IU Credit Union Classic. In one of the toughest tournament slates in the nation, the Irish tied then-No. 5 Wake Forest before losing to then-No. 3 St. John’s. Notre Dame endured a similar fate the next week at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament, blowing out Seattle before dropping an overtime match to New Mexico.
The Irish have also been frustrated in conference play, holding a 2-2-0 record despite a 7-4 point differential and a relentless offense. Notre Dame opened this week’s home stand with a crushing 4-0 victory against No. 17 Louisville, but then dropped a 1-0 match to unranked Cincinnati.
By all accounts, the season has been frustrating for the talented Irish, who have been unable to put together consecutive wins at any point this fall. Still, Notre Dame has plenty of room to make up ground in the seven remaining Big East matches before the Big East championship in early November.
“We must take one match at a time and absolutely focus on the job on hand,” Clark said. “Even after a bumpy start, I have a good feeling about this team. They are a wonderful group to coach and, in spite of everything, we are having a lot of fun and are working very hard.”
The Irish will enjoy homefield advantage tonight against the Pirates, who hold a 3-1-1 road record this season under 22-year veteran head coach Manfred Schellscheidt. Notre Dame has enjoyed a 3-1-0 home record at the new Alumni Stadium this season, with an average of three goals scored per match.
“The new stadium is fantastic,” Clark said. “It is a great place both to play and watch games. The student and faculty support has been tremendous this year.”
The match begins this evening at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium. It will be the last match of a three-game home stand before the Irish take on Marquette and Providence on the road in conference play.