Men’s Soccer: Irish challenge Spartans, Wolverines
By Mike Monaco | Friday, September 14, 2012
Before the undefeated Irish football squad takes on Michigan State on Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., the No. 8 Notre Dame men’s soccer team will try to remain undefeated against the Spartans at Alumni Stadium on Friday. The Irish will conclude the weekend with a Sunday trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., to face Michigan.
Last time out, the Irish (5-0-0) defeated then-No. 4 Akron 3-1 in an emotional and physical battle that continued Notre Dame’s best start since 1987. Irish coach Bobby Clark said although Sunday was a big win, the Irish have moved on and are now embracing their game-by-game approach.
“It was a great win but it’s now past us,” Clark said. “It doesn’t really matter. I don’t think it has a negative or positive effect on us. It’s what we do in the next game. That’s certainly been one of the mantras for us, to take it one game at a time. The focus will totally be on Michigan State; they’re a good team. There will be no easy games and it’s definitely one game at a time.”
Clark said the Irish are expecting a tough battle from the Spartans (2-3-1), who have played five one-goal games to go along with their lone tie. Recently, Michigan State scored a goal in the 86th minute to down Providence 3-2 on the road. Two games before that, the Spartans outshot No. 4 Connecticut but ended up losing 1-0.
“I think it will be a tough game,” Clark said. “We’ve never had an easy game in recent years with them. We watched the tape of them against [Connecticut]. They lost 1-0 but I thought they were the better side on the afternoon even though they didn’t come out with the result.”
Last season against Michigan State, the Irish won a hard-fought 1-0 battle in East Lansing thanks to a goal in the 54th minute from junior forward Harry Shipp.
This year Shipp, fellow junior forward Leon Brown and senior forward Ryan Finley have combined for six goals and five assists to propel the Irish offense.
Clark reiterated that the Michigan State game will be a difficult one, and that Sunday’s game against Michigan will be quite similar.
“[Michigan State] will be a tough game for sure,” Clark said. “It will be a contest. You have these local rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State so we’re looking forward to [this weekend]. They will be very good games.”
Sunday’s faceoff against the Wolverines marks another rivalry match for the Irish.
New Michigan coach Chaka Daley now leads the Wolverines, who finished 5-14-1 last season, including a 2-1 overtime loss to Notre Dame. Daley took over the Michigan program after 12 seasons at Providence, a familiar Big East opponent for the Irish.
While Daley’s leadership will provide the Irish with some degree of familiarity with this Michigan team, Clark said his team is staying true to its mantra of one game at a time and not looking toward Michigan quite yet.
“I honestly won’t look at Michigan until Friday night, whenever our game finishes,” Clark said. “That’s the thing about playing the double games on a weekend. You obviously have to focus on the first one. As far as I’m concerned, the only game I’m looking at is Michigan State.”
Clark said regardless of how much time they have to prepare, the Irish simply need to come out and execute once the clock starts.
“The most important thing is to focus on playing well,” Clark said. “The winning will hopefully take care of itself. We have to look at our performance and focus on getting top-class performances every game out. If we look at the end of the season and see that, then the results will take care of themselves. The key is how we play individually and as a team.”
After the Irish host Michigan State on Friday at 7 p.m., Notre Dame travels to Michigan on Sunday with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m.
Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]