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Olympic Sports Preview

The third-ranked Irish men’s soccer team puts its unblemished 7-0 record on the line Saturday night as they open Big East play in Louisville.

Senior forward Ryan Finley has scored five of Notre Dame's 13 goals during the team's 7-0 start to the season.

The unbeaten and untied run through their pre-conference schedule is the best start Notre Dame has had since 1987 when it began the year 14-0-1. Still, the Irish are having no problems staying humble. If anything, they have yet to figure out how good they can actually be.

The team’s signature win so far this season was a 3-1 home victory over then-No. 4 Akron, a regular national title contender in college soccer. The Irish surrendered a goal in the first four minutes of that game — an early slip that senior captain Dillon Powers blamed on intimidation.

“I don’t want to say we don’t believe in ourselves, but we did come out tentative. It’s hard to explain why that happens,” he said following the game.

Notre Dame started to build on its confidence the following week when it beat Michigan and Michigan State in back-to-back shutouts. Senior Ryan Finley scored a golden goal four minutes into double overtime against the Wolverines to keep the Irish perfect.

The road trip to Ann Arbor started a four-game road trip that will show if this year’s team is just off to a hot start or if they are in for a special year. After playing Louisville Saturday night, the Irish head to Indiana for an in-state showdown with the No. 15 Hoosiers. Then they travel to No. 2 Connecticut, who has also yet to lose a game this season.

“This is good preparation for us if we’re fortunate enough to make the NCAA Tournament,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said, echoing the humility of his captain. “Nobody’s looking past Louisville. I think this group is ready to take them one at a time. When you have a schedule like our schedule you’re not going to be looking past anyone.”

The Big East’s blue division is stacked this season with five unbeaten teams so far including the Irish. Marquette, Georgetown and Pittsburgh all enter the conference schedule with only wins or ties on their record along with the Huskies and Notre Dame. Notre Dame will play all three of them during the regular season capped off by a home-and-home series with 7-0 Marquette.

Women’s Soccer (5-3-1)
Notre Dame looks to continue a two-game winning streak tonight at Alumni Field against Pittsburgh. The Irish got back on track with a pair of wins last week during their first Big East weekend. They beat Louisville 2-1 before hanging seven goals on Cincinnati in a dominant shutout.

The team got a big boost with the addition of junior Mandy Laddish and freshman Cari Roccaro, who returned from the U-20 women’s World Cup in Japan last week. Laddish and Roccaro were part of the U.S. national team that beat Germany 1-0 to win gold. Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said they made an impact in their first day back on the practice field.

“You could see a difference in the way we can keep the ball a little bit better in the midfield,” he said. “Mandy just adds a lot of experience and composure there. She’s a skillful player.”

Laddish, a team captain, scored a goal in her first game back against Louisville. Roccaro, one of the nation’s top recruits, scored her first collegiate goal the following day against the Bearcats.

The Irish will also host Oakland on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Alumni Field.

Volleyball (7-5)
After a challenging early schedule, Notre Dame begins conference play Friday night at Cincinnati. They’ll make the short trip across the Kentucky border to play Louisville Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame beat Kansas in its most recent match 3-1 behind the strength of sophomore Toni Alugbue. The California native was named to the Big East honor roll for the third consecutive streak after registering 20 kills and 10 digs against the Jayhawks.

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