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Men’s Soccer: Spartan Surrender

Laura Myers | Thursday, October 29, 2009

Notre Dame found itself playing catch-up twice Wednesday and ultimately fell short as it lost 2-1 at Michigan State.

“We always seem to be chasing the game,” coach Bobby Clark said. “The team put in tremendous effort. That was a given and I couldn’t fault them for their effort. I thought they worked very, very hard.”

The Spartans (10-4-1) got off to an early lead with a goal by forward Rubin Bega in the 14th minute.

“I thought after they scored that really woke us up,” Clark said.

The Irish (9-7-1) responded in the 36th minute as sophomore midfielder Adam Mena headed in a cross from senior forward Jeb Brovsky. It was Mena’s first goal in an Irish uniform and it tied the game at 1-1.

“It was a really bonnie goal,” Clark said. “Adam, in the game against Georgetown, met a similar ball and hit it with his head the same way and it hit the crossbar. This time he hit it better and it went in. It was really neat for him.”

The score remained tied into halftime, though Clark said the team wished the first half hadn’t ended.

“We were good, we were back in the game, pushing the game at that point,” he said. “You’re sorry to see halftime come because that broke our momentum. We had really good momentum after we scored.”

Michigan State once again struck first in the second half when midfielder Cyrus Saydee got one past senior goalkeeper Andrew Quinn in the 56th minute.

“[Michigan State] wasn’t doing anything special and suddenly their left winger scored a pretty fantastic goal,” Clark said. “He toasted two or three of our defenders before hitting a shot from a very tight angle.”

Notre Dame was then in a very familiar position — down one goal and fighting for life — but was unable to get the ball into the net.

“They worked very hard trying to get back into the game,” Clark said. “We huffed and puffed but we couldn’t come up with that vital tying goal.”

The Irish outshot Michigan State 14-8 in the game and 7-3 in the second half, but had little to show for it. In fact, the Spartans had just two shots on goal in the game compared to Notre Dame’s four, but both went in.

“If it was on shots taken, we carried the game,” Clark said. “But the only statistic that really counts is goals and unfortunately they came up on the right side of that.”

The match was Notre Dame’s last away game of the regular season and also its last non-conference game. The Irish will return to Alumni Stadium Saturday for Senior Night against No. 5 Connecticut. The Huskies currently lead Notre Dame by one point in the Big East Blue Division standings, and an Irish win combined with a Husky loss or tie to Marquette Monday would give Notre Dame the regular season title. The Big East tournament begins Nov. 4.

The Irish will also be fighting for a chance to make the NCAA tournament. Before Wednesday’s game they stood in 36th in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), used to determine at-large bids to the tournament, to which 32 teams are invited.

“If we’re going to make the tournament we’ve got to win some games,” Clark said. “These games take on tremendous importance. Today’s game was a very important game to us and we came up short. We’ve got to start winning some games.”