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Men’s Soccer: Irish tie first game with Indiana

Joseph Monardo | Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday’s regular season opener for the Irish was played to a soundtrack of the infamous, buzzing vuvuzelas, which were handed out to students at the gates. But not even an Alumni Stadium record attendance of over 3,000 could spur Notre Dame to victory, as the Irish battled Indiana to a scoreless overtime tie.

Although neither team was able to break onto the scoreboard, the No. 9 Irish failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities, as near miss was followed by near miss.

“There were a lot of shots, and we just couldn’t put the final finish on any of the shots,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “I thought it was an exciting game and … it was a fun game to watch. It would have been a lot [more fun] if we had gotten the W.”

In the game’s early minutes, the teams traded possession in the midfield area, with both the Irish and the No. 15 Hoosiers struggling to keep control of the ball, let alone generate any kind of offense.

In the 31st minute, junior forward Ryan Finley came off the bench to make his Irish debut. Last year’s ACC Offensive Player of the Year with Duke, the transfer immediately provided a spark for Notre Dame. In his first two minutes on the field, Finley had the game’s best scoring chance up to that point.

“[Finley] did very well, he was inches off getting a couple of goals,” Clark said. “I think he was excellent.”

In the final 12 minutes of the first half, the Irish peppered the Hoosiers with shots, nearly cashing in on a couple of goals. Senior midfielder Brendan King curved a ball off the post in the 33rd minute, only moments before the Hoosier keeper corralled a header by sophomore forward Harry Shipp.

The last gasp of the Irish flurry came shortly thereafter, when senior midfielder Adam Mena directed a header past a charging Indiana keeper that sailed inches wide of the open net. The Irish outshot Indiana 24-11 for the game, as senior goalkeeper Will Walsh totaled five saves to earn the shutout.

“It’s frustrating at the end of the day, but when you think about it, we played some brilliant soccer tonight,” Mena said. “We focused on trying to play our game and just connecting passes and playing the way we know how to play, and there are spurts in the game where we played really, really well. But the ball just wasn’t bouncing for us tonight, goal wise. I know we outplayed them for sure.”

The Irish had their share of scoring opportunities in the second half as well, but as the game neared the 110th minute, the Irish faded away.

“I was a little bit disappointed, in the overtime,” Clark said. “I think we let it slip out, but maybe we were getting tired.”

Still, the Irish showed enough promise to keep Clark optimistic moving forward.

“Obviously, we’ve got to stick the ball in the net,” Clark said. “But I think if we can play with the same composure … I think we’ll be ok. In all my years here playing Indiana that’s by far the most we’ve ever dominated for long periods of the game, so I’m quite pleased with that. There were periods where our connecting the ball, connecting passes was superb.”

Another highlight for the Irish was the play of junior defender Grant Van De Casteele, who played the entire game after logging limited minutes in the preseason following injury.

“For me, the man of the match is Grant van de Castelle. Grant was fantastic there at the back,” Clark said. “He and [senior defender] Aaron Maund really just mopped up everything. He was fantastic, he was just so good.”

Notre Dame travels to the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind., for its next set of contests. The Irish will face Dayton Friday and Saint Louis Sunday.

Although they would have liked to enter the tournament with a win under their belt, the Irish remain focused and confident.

“[We need to] just keep our heads up and play the way we know how to play, play the way boss teaches us how to play, and everything will take care of itself,” Mena said.