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Men’s Soccer: Substitutes sink Spartans in second round

By Mike Monaco | Monday, November 19, 2012

After 20 minutes of uneventful soccer, senior forward Ryan Finley and junior forward Harry Shipp checked into the game and jolted the No. 1 Irish to a 3-0 victory over Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday at Alumni Stadium.

Playing in tandem with senior midfielder Dillon Powers, Finley and Shipp scored two first-half goals and Notre Dame (17-3-1), the top overall seed, rolled to the win in its first tournament game after receiving a first-round bye.

“It was very good,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said of his team’s performance. “I thought we opened the game well and I thought in the second half of the first half we were very, very good. … Overall it was a good performance. Anytime you win in the [NCAA tournament], you’re very happy.”

Powers, who is second on the team with 19 points, was credited with the assists on the goals by Finley and Shipp. The goal by Finley, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, gave him 21 goals and 46 points for the season. Shipp is tied for third on the team with 17 points.

“I think we have a good feeling for where each other is going to be when we have the ball,” Shipp said. “I think Dillon is getting a lot better at making runs in behind, and I think I’m getting a lot better at making runs in behind because that’s what Finley is best at. So I think to add a second and third dimension besides just him running really helps.”

After subbing into the game at the 20:03 mark, the forwards quickly charged the Irish offense. Powers found Shipp near the top of the box at 32:53 and Shipp blasted home a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net. Shipp said it was important to jump out to a lead against the Spartans (12-10-1).

“It’s huge because I think a team like Michigan State, especially where they are good at sitting back and playing defense, once you get that first goal, they have to come out and that how it was easy to get two more [goals] because they have to go on the attack,” Shipp said.

Roughly 10 minutes after Shipp broke the scoring ice, Finley doubled Notre Dame’s advantage when he headed home a corner kick swung in by Powers.

“Dillon put in another good ball and Grant ran across and dummied it and I was able to just get a head on it and redirect it in,” Finley said. “We’ve been working on set pieces a lot so it was nice to be rewarded for that.”

At the other end of the pitch, the Notre Dame defense allowed just eight shots – just two of which were on goal – and three corner kicks en route to its ninth shutout of the year. Clark lauded sophomore midfielder Nick Besler for his performance in front of senior goalkeeper Will Walsh and the back four.

“I think the man that has been doing a lot of work for us recently is Nick Besler,” Clark said. “Nick Besler I thought he was the man of the [Big East] tournament last weekend in Philadelphia. He allows these other guys to get involved in the attack because he just bolts up any counterattacks and I thought he was very good again today.”

A physical game turned ugly down the stretch when Irish junior defender Luke Mishu and Spartan senior midfielder Nick Wilson were engaged in an altercation in front of the Notre Dame goal after Walsh snatched a cross out of the air. Mishu and Wilson both received red cards at the 72:43 mark.

Less than five minutes later, Michigan State sophomore midfielder Fatai Alashe was whistled for his second yellow card when he took out Besler with a slide tackle. Alashe was also ejected with a red card.

Notre Dame advances to play No. 16 seed Indiana in the third round. The Irish downed the Hoosiers (12-5-3) 1-0 on Sept. 26 in Bloomington, Ind.

Notre Dame will take on the Hoosiers on Sunday at Alumni Stadium.

Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]