Irish face must-win situation against Hoyas for tourney spot
By KERRY SMITH
Stuck in a three-game losing slump that may jeopardize the Notre Dame men's soccer team's goal for a post-season Big East play-off berth, the Irish are all too aware that much is riding on tonight's matchup with conference rival Georgetown.
After a disappointing showing in the Big East last week, the Irish have compiled a 4-4-1 conference record. With only two games left in the regular season — both of them against Big East teams — the Irish are facing a must-win situation in order to continue on to the tournament.
"If we win we're into the playoffs, so we know we have to play well", said defender Connor LaRose. "That gives us a lot of motivation to have a big game and win."
The Hoyas, who have fared only slightly better than the Irish in conference action with a 5-4-1 record, find themselves in the same must-win situation, making tonight's match up key for both teams. The Irish will need to focus on their defensive strength in order to fend off the Hoyas.
"We're focusing on getting organized defensively a little better than we were last week," said head coach Mike Berticelli earlier in the week. "We're doing all right but we have to get to the point where we aren't allowing any goals to be scored on us."
Despite the three-game skid last week, the Irish defense has been a consistent force on a team where a fluctuating offense has been a permanent cause for concern.
Starting anywhere from five to seven freshmen in each game this season, youth and inexperience took its toll on the team's record early on. With the offense struggling to put the ball in the net in the squad's opening games, the defense came up big and kept the Irish in each contest.
The biggest threat to the Irish defense is Hoya forward Kenny Owens. With five goals and three assists on the season, Owens leads the Hoya offense and has proven himself to be the squad's most potent player on the front line.
"We've been working on tightening up our defense and marking everyone on the field to prevent them from scoring," said LaRose. "They play well as team and are good on offense, but we know we have the ability to beat them."
A first half team, the Hoyas throughout the season have established a pattern of coming on strong from the outset and then suffering from a defensive let down in the second half. The Hoyas have given up only four goals in the first half of play all season, but opponents have been able to score 15 goals in the second half of play.
"Last year they took it to us and we know that," LaRose said. "We need to focus on scoring against them and not being lackluster on offense like we have been in our past few games."
Notre Dame's matchup with Georgetown marks the squad's final regular season home game of the year.
All Sports Stories for Friday, October 29, 1999