Nov. 16, 2001
STORRS, Conn.—- The Notre Dame men’s soccer team lost for just the second time in its last 11 outings as the No.2 seed Irish (12-6) dropped a 1-0 decision to No. 3 seed St. John’s (13-2-3) in the semifinals of the 2001 BIG EAST Men’s Soccer Championship at Morrone St in Storrs, Conn.
Angel Rodriguez scored the game-winning goal 2:43 into the second for the Red Storm. The score was set up when Rodriguez slipped through the Notre Dame defense seven yards inside of the box off of a free kick from outside of the box by Jeff Matteo. The goal was Rodriguez’ seventh score of the season and third game-winning tally.
“We’ obviously disappointed in the outcome because I think when we wake up tomorrow morning and think about the game it’s one of those we would like to play again,” first-year head coach Bobby Clark said following the game. “We were a little unsettled in the first half, but I think we did a much better job in the final 45 minutes.”
Notre Dame, ranked 17th nationally following a 7-3 conference mark during the regular season, never really seemed to get on track on offense, but Clark, the BIG EAST Coach of the Year believes that the hard conditions of the playing field favored St. John’s
“The field was very hard and I believe that it favored St. John’s style of play more than ours,” Clark says. “The play on an Astroturf field and our much more accustomed to the fast conditions. I’m not making any exuses, but this is the kind of game against a quality opponent that we have to be accustomed to winning. “St. John’s did an excellent job of sticking to their game plan tonight. They’re a very good team.”
This was the first meeting of the season between the two teams. Heading into the contest, St.John,s, ranked eighth nationally, owned 5-1-2 advantage. This was the second time in BIG EAST tournament play that the two team have faced each in a semifinal matchup. The Red Storm defeated Notre Dame 4-1 in the 1997 championship.
Notre Dame, which outshot St. John’s 6-2 in the first half, could muster little scoring opportunity in the second half as the Red Storm owned a 7-4 shot advantage in the final 45 minutes of the contest.
Rodriguez nearly had his second score of the game with 32 minutes left in the contest when beat two Irish defenders and missed an open shot in front of the Irish after freshman goalkeeper Chris Sawyer (Highlands, Ranch, Colo.) had been drawn outside of the goal area. Sawyer made two saves in the game, while Red Storm goalkeeper Guy Hertz finished with three saves.
Notre Dame had a couple of scoring opportunities in the second half, but could just not convert. Jack Stewart’s (Torrance, Calif.) shot at the 31:04 mark went wide right and Justin Detter (White Lake, Mich.) blasted a shot from 13 yards out that was tipped over the crossbar by Hertz with 6:28 to play in the game.
Notre Dame, which was shutout for the fifth time this season and first time since dropping a 1-0 decision on this same field to Connecticut on Oct. 27 will now await a bid into the 48-team NCAA field which will be announced on Monday (Nov.19) afternoon.
“I’m very positive about our chances,” Clark says. “We deserve to be one of the 48 teams selected because of the quality of opponents we have played and beaten. The only thing we’re going to concentrate.”