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Irish Down Broncos and Crusaders, Prepare for Indiana

Apr 8, 2014, 9:54 PM EDT

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

Playing at Notre Dame for the first time all spring, the men’s soccer squad earned wins against both Western Michigan and Valparaiso on Sunday afternoon.

“It was great to get outside on our campus, to actually see the sun,” head coach Bobby Clark said. “Everyone was excited.”

Clark divided his group into two equal teams in an effort to give every player a sizable amount of time in either scrimmage. Notre Dame’s first match was against Western Michigan. Sophomore midfielder Connor Klekota opened the scoring with a rocket from thirty yards out that put the Irish up one heading into intermission. Early in the second half, senior forward Leon Brown was able to sneak behind the defense and calmly push the ball past the Western Michigan keeper. Junior midfielder Robby Gallegos tallied a strike late to round out the scoring.

Valparaiso provided a bit of a stiffer challenge in the second game. The Crusaders are coached by Mike Avery, who was an assistant to Clark for five years at Notre Dame. Needless to say, Avery therefore has a strong grasp on what Clark-led teams try to do, and this was reflected in his squad’s performance. The Irish scraped by the Crusaders, 1-0, on a goal by freshman midfielder Oliver Harris. Clark stressed that the win did not come easy.

“I thought they made us work for our victory,” Clark said. “It was a good test for us. Valparaiso can beat almost any team in the nation. They had a well-drilled and well-schooled attack.”

Notre Dame will travel to Fort Wayne next weekend to play in its annual spring tilt with Indiana. The Irish have a long history with the Hoosiers, most recently winning a mid-season game last year at home 2-0. Clark is looking forward to the tough match, one that is always played in front of a packed house.

“Every time IU plays Notre Dame, it’s a big game,” Clark said. “There will be several thousand at the game, as there has in the past.”

Instead of fixating on preparing for Indiana, Clark said that the Irish’s main focus will be on playing its style rather than responding to its opponent’s tactics.

“We are more interested in ourselves,” Clark said. “We’ve got to see if a few guys can actually play in a big game, in an atmosphere like that. We definitely want to get some of the less-experienced players into a game like that and see how they react.”

Notre Dame will battle the Hoosiers at 2:00 P.M. on Saturday at the Fort Wayne Sport Club.

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