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Men’s Soccer: Panthers to be next test in quest for conference crown

Molly Sammon | Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Irish will test their seven-year win streak against Pittsburgh at home this afternoon, opening a crucial week of play that will determine their potential as a contender for the Big East crown as the regular season enters into the final stretch.

“We’re in a position that we can win the league,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “The team will need to take care of that themselves. If we’re going to do that, we need to win both games this week and that starts [today].”

Though the Irish (7-4-4, 4-2-1 Big East) have won eight of the last ten contests against the Panthers (6-7-2, 1-4-2), Clark said Wednesday’s matchup will be a big challenge and very important to get a good jump into the Big East tournament.

“I think every game is a different game, every year is a different year, and every team a different team. It’s what we do [today] that will influence the outcome,” Clark said. “There’s no use looking back, there’s no use looking forward. It’s what we do [today] that’s going to be important.”

To learn about this year’s particular group that will travel to Notre Dame, the Irish went over previous games to get a better grasp on what to expect from Pittsburgh Wednesday.

“They are having a pretty good season this year. I think we’ve watched tape on them, and we’ve been impressed with them on tape. They’re a strong physical team,” Clark said.

Notre Dame faced some of the nation’s toughest competition over last week’s fall break, losing one game to No. 1 Louisville and ending in a scoreless tie against No. 5 Connecticut. After playing three big games over the break, Clark gave the Irish an off day Monday and a light run through of drills Tuesday to rest their legs for the ensuing week of competition.

Though the Panthers are not one of the contenders for the Big East title this season, a victory in South Bend could help them qualify for the conference tournament as they are on bubble for one of the remaining available positions.

“Of the three teams that can win the league at the moment, it’s us, Connecticut and Georgetown,” Clark said. “They’ll be playing to get into the tournament. It’s a big game for them also — they’re looking to win this game.”

The Irish will play the Pittsburgh Panthers at 7 p.m. today at Notre Dame’s Alumni Stadium with important conference positioning on the line.

“[Winning the Big East is] one of our major goals,” Clark said. “If we’re going to be successful we’re going to have to take care of business [today].”