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Men’s Soccer: After loss to Nova, Clark hopes for at-large bid

Molly Sammon | Thursday, November 3, 2011

Villanova only needed one goal to advance to the second round of the Big East tournament in its 1-0 shutout against Notre Dame at Alumni Stadium on Thursday. The Irish will run a full week of practice and hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which begins Nov. 17.

“Soccer is a funny game,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “You can get goals easily some days, like against Seton Hall [on Tuesday], but there are other days [when] they don’t come so easily. We just have to hope that we can get an at-large bid. Hopefully our season isn’t over — I still feel like we’ve got a little bit left.”

Thursday’s loss for No. 18 Notre Dame (9-5-4) marked the first time that the Wildcats won a postseason game in program history. They will move on to face No. 5 South Florida, one of the tournament’s two top seeds of the Big East Tournament.

Villanova opened scoring on the day with 11 minutes remaining in the first half as Wildcat freshman forward Aaron Dennis sent a shot from nine yards short of the goal off a pass from sophomore forward Dylan Renna.

At the end of the half, the Irish and the Wildcats were tied with nine shots. In the second half, Notre Dame stood out offensively with seven shots to the Wildcats’ one, but was unable to convert a goal.

“We absolutely killed them in the second half, but unfortunately, the game is two halves,” Clark said. “We had really one lapse defensively in that first period, it was I think their only serious shot and they put it in the net. That was their counting goal. I was very proud of the way the team played in the second half. We put on a good performance with everything except scoring a goal.”

Villanova’s goalkeeper, John Fogarty, had six saves and its defenders presented a tough wall despite Notre Dame’s strong second half.

“For the amount of [good] play we had, in the second half, we should have had more [goals],” Clark said. “To be fair, they defended well, they stuck to their guns, and their goalkeeper had a couple of good saves.”

The Irish have two weeks of practice to prepare for a potential first round game of the NCAA tournament.

“I think we’ll do a little bit tomorrow, give them the weekend, then we’ll work really hard next week,” Clark said.

Now that they are out of the Big East tournament, Notre Dame’s chances of getting one of the coveted 48 spots for the NCAA tournament look good for the Irish with their No. 32 ranking in the NCAA RPI, but nothing is guaranteed.

“It’ll be a week from Monday where we’ll have to sweat it out,” Clark said. “We’ll have to light a candle at the grotto, maybe a couple of candles at the grotto.”

The Irish will wait until Nov. 14 to find out if their season continues with an NCAA tournament berth.