Oct. 31, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A golden goal from senior forward Bright Dike (Edmond, Okla./Edmond North) 53 seconds into overtime gave Notre Dame a 2-1 victory over fifth-ranked Connecticut in BIG EAST men’s soccer action on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium. The match was the regular-season finale for the Fighting Irish.
The win moved Notre Dame (10-7-1, 8-3-0) into first place in the BIG EAST Blue Division. The Irish will win their third straight league title if Connecticut (10-3-3, 7-2-1) ties or loses to Marquette on Monday in its final regular season contest. Notre Dame already has clinched a first-round bye for the upcoming BIG EAST Championship. The Irish will play host to a league quarterfinal match next weekend (either Nov. 7 or 8).
Connecticut struck first in Saturday’s match as Mike Pezza placed a shot into the upper right corner from 25 yards out in the 26th minute. Greg King and Alan Ponce assisted on the play. That was Connecticut’s only shot in the first half.
Notre Dame netted the equalizer just over two minutes later when senior midfielder Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) deposited the rebound off a Dike header that was punched out by Connecticut goalkeeper Josh Ford. A Brendan King (Naperville, Ill./Edison Academic Center (Fla.)) corner kick began the sequence. That was Thomas’ sixth goal of the season.
The match was knotted 1-1 at halftime. The Irish out shot the Huskies 7-1 in the first half.
“This was a terrific game,” stated Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark. “I thought we were superb in the first half. It was similar to our last game here at home against West Virginia (a 1-0 loss on Oct. 17). They (Connecticut) had one shot in the first half and they scored on it. It was nice to get one back fairly quickly when Michael Thomas scored.”
Dike nearly gave the Irish the lead in the first minute of the second half yet his blast from 23 yards out was saved by Ford. The senior forward almost scored six minutes later but his shot from the top of the 18-yard box sailed just high and wide of the crossbar.
The Huskies threatened with 27:35 left in the second half as Ponce sent his shot just wide right of the far post from 16 yards away. Notre Dame’s best look of the second half occurred with 21:53 showing on the clock as King put a shot on goal from inside the 18-yard box that was cleared off the line by a Connecticut defender.
Following a 1-1 deadlock in regulation, both teams headed for the first 10-minute overtime period. It did not take the Irish long to end the match as freshman Dillon Powers (Plano, Texas/Plano Senior) sent a pass ahead to Jeb Brovsky (Lakewood, Colo./Green Mountain), who flicked the ball over to Dike and he sent home his team-leading ninth goal of the season past a charging Ford.
That marked the third golden goal for Notre Dame this season, with all of them coming in the past seven matches. Dike scored one against Providence on Oct. 10 and junior defender Bilal Duckett (Peachtree City, Ga./McIntosh) netted one against Georgetown on Oct. 21. The Irish are 3-1-1 in overtime games this season.
“It was a great pass by Jeb Brovsky,” added Clark. “He played a beautiful little feed pass into Dike. We needed that one. That was a win against a good opponent and now we hope we can take that momentum into the BIG EAST Tournament.”
Notre Dame held a 13-7 advantage in shots on the day in addition to earning four more corner kicks (6-2). Irish goalkeeper Philip Tuttle (Hooksett, N.H./Brewster Academy) made one save to up his record to 7-3-0. Ford had six saves. The Irish victory snapped Connecticut’s nine-game unbeaten streak. The Huskies had only surrendered one goal in that nine-game stretch.
The eight wins in BIG EAST play ties the most ever for the Fighting Irish since joining the league in 1995. Notre Dame also won eight BIG EAST matches in 2004 and 2006.
The goals from Thomas and Dike were fitting since they occurred on senior day. They were part of the nine Fighting Irish seniors recognized prior to today’s match.
Alumni Stadium â€¢ Notre Dame, Ind.
Oct. 31, 2009
#5 Connecticut (10-3-3, 7-2-1) 1 0 0 – 1
Notre Dame (10-7-1, 8-3-0) 1 0 1 – 2
Shots: UC 1-6-0 – 7, ND 7-5-1 – 13
Corner Kicks: UC 2-0-0 – 2, ND 2-4-0 – 6
Saves: UC 7 (Josh Ford – 90:57 – 2 ga – 6 svs – L; 1 team save); ND 1 (Philip Tuttle – 90:57 – 1 ga – 1 sv – W)
Fouls: UC 6, ND 12
Offsides: UC 2, ND 1