Oct. 20, 2002
Notre Dame, Ind. – It was a tale of two halves for the Notre Dame men’s soccer team. Thoroughly dominated in the first half, the 20th-ranked Irish exploded for three second-half goals en route to a 3-1 victory over fifth-ranked Connecticut. Junior Greg Martin (Plano, Texas) scored two goals in the contest to lead the Irish to their fourth straight victory.
The win snapped Notre Dame’s five game losing streak to the Huskies as the Irish were victorious against Connecticut for the first time since the semifinals of the 1996 BIG EAST Tournament (a 2-1 win). It also marked the first conference regular-season victory for Notre Dame against thte Huskies since becoming a member of the BIG EAST in 1995.
The victory also was the Irish’s fourth this season against a ranked opponent – a first in school history. In addition, Notre Dame defeated its third top 10 team this season, also a first in the program’s history which spans 25-plus seasons.
Coach Bobby Clark’s Irish improved to 8-3-3 overall and 4-2-1 in BIG EAST play, while Connecticut, which had won seven straight heading into the contest, fall to 10-3-0 overall and 5-2-0 in league. All three of Connecticut losses this season have been on the road.
Notre Dame came out tentative in the first half and let the Huskies dictate the level and intensity of play. Connecticut outshot the Irish 6-0 in the first half. The Huskies lone goal of the contest was scored at the 23:19 mark of the contest by Andres Rota who took a pass from teammate Anthony Curtis and scored from 10 yards out.
The Huskies nearly took a 2-0 lead in the contest three minutes later when some confusion in the Irish backfield forced goalkeeper Chris Sawyer (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) out of the goal area. Rui Fernandes’ shot from nine yards out was headed into the net, but an alert play from freshman defender Dale Rellas (Plano, Texas) saved the day for the Irish as he got a foot on the ball and kicked it out of the goal area just when it appeared to be heading into the net.
The Irish came out aggressively in the second half which paid dividends immediately for Notre Dame with two goals in the first 8:41 of the second half. Martin netted his first goal off of penalty kick when Chad Riley (Houston, Texas) was taken down by Curtis on the right side of the penalty box.
Martin’s second goal came when he chipped in a five-yarder over the head of Husky goalkeeper Adam Schuerman off of a loose ball following a throw-in from the left side of the field by Kevin Goldthwaite (Sacramento, Calif.).
Notre Dame tightened up its defense following Martin’s second goal and limited the Huskies to just two shots in the second half. The Irish outshot the Huskies 8-2 in the second half and owned an 4-2 advantage in corner kicks. Connecticut also did not attempt a corner kick in the second half.
Erich Braun (Frankfurt, Germany) gave Notre Dame’s its two-goal cushion as he scored his seventh goal of the season after centering a pass from Rafael Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.) from the right corner of the box with five seconds remaining in the contest. It was the first goal scored by Braun since tallying two goals against Providence on September 22. Heading into the contest, he had been scoreless in Notre Dame’s six outings.
After a three-game hiatus, Sawyer earned his first start being taken out of the second half of the Pittsburgh game (Oct. 4) because of a hamstring injury.
“This was obviously a very big win for us,” Clark says. “We appeared to be a little scared in the first half, but we made our adjustments at halftime and settled down after halftime. Our team showed a lot of determination and I am proud of the effort of our guys.”
Notre Dame will be on the road for its next two games as the Irish are in the midst of a week-long fall break. Clark’s squad will travel to Villanova, Pa., for a 1:00 p.m. match with Villanova on Wed., Oct., 23 and then are scheduled to take on Georgetown in Washington, D.C., on Sat., Oct. 26 at 1:00 p.m. Both of these contests will be the final two regular-season road games for the Irish.
SCORING: UC: Andres Rota (Anthony Curtis), 23:19; ND: Greg Martin, 46:49; ND: Greg Martin, 53:41; ND: Erich Braun (Rafael Garcia), 89:55
GAME STATISTICS: Shots: Notre Dame 8, Connecticut 8; Saves: ND 3 (Chris Sawyer – 2), Connecticut 2 (Adam Schuerman – 2); Fouls: Notre Dame 9, Connecticut 17; Corner Kicks: Notre Dame 4, Connecticut 2