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Men’s Soccer: Hoosier showdown

Michael Blasco | Wednesday, October 14, 2009

For a team that seems to have finally found its feet, the Irish will have no time to cool their heels.

Just returned from two victories on the road, No. 22 Notre Dame (7-4-1, 5-2-0 Big East) will host No. 19 Indiana (6-4-1) tonight at 7:15 p.m. at Alumni Stadium. The match will be the 30th meeting in the long-standing rivalry.

“It’s a big game. It’s a huge game,” ninth-year Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Any meeting between the Irish and the Hoosiers is always one of the biggest games of the season in any sport, certainly in soccer. Indiana has a pedigree as long as your arm – a fantastic program.”

Notre Dame’s current three-game winning streak is its longest of the season, and marks the only time the Irish have been able to string together consecutive victories. Although Notre Dame entered the season with a great deal of promise, a brutal schedule and losses on their defensive unit have kept the Irish from mounting any rhythm in the early going.

However, since a 2-3-1 stretch in September, Notre Dame has racked up four wins in its last five matches. The defensive struggles also seemed to be resolved after allowing just one goal during that five-game stretch.

After a 1-0 win at Michigan over the weekend, Indiana comes into tonight’s matchup with an even 2-2 record on the road.

The Irish have enjoyed a strong home field advantage at the new Alumni Stadium, posting a 4-2 home record, including a 5-0 blowout over Michigan to inaugurate the pitch.

The Hoosiers have dominated the series history with a record of 23-5-1, but the Irish have had some success under Clark against their Bloomington rivals. Clark’s squads are 4-5-0 against Indiana, but the Hoosiers have taken the last two meetings between the schools.

“[Indiana] is obviously a team that’s done well against us in recent years,” Clark said. “They’re obviously a challenge for us. This match always seems to come into play in terms of NCAA rankings and seedings. It may determine whether we play in Bloomington or we play at Alumni when it comes to the [NCAA] Tournament.”

Leading the Notre Dame charge will be senior forward Bright Dike, who last week was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll and the College Soccer News National Team of the Week. Dike leads all Big East players in goals (eight) and points (18). It was the second time this season Dike was named to the Big East Honor Roll.

“Bright is doing very well but he is far from being a one man show,” Clark said. “I feel that we are consistently dominating the second periods of every game and this is often due to the players who come on. [Senior] Tamba [Samba], [junior] Steven Perry, [sophomore] Michael Rose, [sophomore] Brendan King, and [sophomore] Adam Mena have all been superb in this capacity.”

After taking on the Hoosiers, Notre Dame will continue Big East play when they host West Virginia Saturday at 11:30 a.m.