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Monday, October 8, 2007

Soccer Log

Lift-off comes with generous time still left

Most naturally, contrary to what has been seen each and every other time this season, a thoroughly opposite vibe emerged Sunday from the Providence College side of a women’s soccer contest.

Living off of their 1-0 edge of visiting Rutgers courtesy of Greta Houlihan’s early connection, which first of all moistened an egregious scoring drought that had been present since before the Big East schedule commenced, there was more invigoration than relief conveyed from the Friar faithful. Players and supporters could barely stay still, let alone remain sitting as the no longer arid attacking unit constantly stabbed for more.

By game’s end, season-long cornerstone –and often lone shining star- Laura Elfers’ goalie box was suddenly home plate after a walk-off home run. Once that mob was finally breaking up, the long-muted, long-suffering strikers Houlihan, Caitlin Hostetler, and Victoria Neff were still glued to one another in a prolonged three-way embrace.

It may not quite yet have been the eleventh hour when the win struck, but any craving for ultra-epic race towards the post-season can take a back seat, the team’s actions implied. The mere sense of liberation from the pothole of the previous six games, in which they were outscored 15-0, was made most plain in the aftermath of their first Big East win of the season and second overall. Any time it came, so long as it were reasonably timely, it would have been welcome.

The trick now, of course, is to start thawing out the leftover numbness from that fettering of the neck, wrists, and ankles and confirm the shift in momentum. Cracking the goose egg in the conference points column and having a designated offensive player come through (their other two goals from earlier in the season came off the feet of defenders) are mere foundations.

Providence concludes its five game homestand, and its 2007 home slate altogether, this weekend with two fellow American Division tenants of reciprocal stances. The West Virginia Mountaineers, tied for first with Connecticut as they boast a 4-0-1 transcript, drop in on Friday. Pittsburgh, now in a deadlock with the Friars to avoid the basement and riding a three-game skid (the last two falters coming in overtime), will visit the potent Huskies Friday before they hit Glay Field Sunday.

All the while, South Florida and Syracuse, who are each subsisting on 4 points in defense of the division’s last two passports to the Big East preliminary round, will lock horns on Friday. Though the Bulls do have a game in hand on the rest of the American pool, the web of possibilities remains virtually boundless as the conference campaign hovers around halftime.

Save room for Maduro-ness?

It is pretty clear-cut that this week’s centerpiece of on-campus sporting activity concerns the buildup toward Friday’s annual Late Night Madness basketball bash. But reigning Big East offensive player of the week Ryan Maduro and the Men’s Soccer team could genuinely make their own cries for attention. Saturday’s 2-0 falter at Georgetown standstilled the third-place Friars in their attempts to break away from the Blue Division’s middle class gridlock and catch up to mighty rival Connecticut, whom they will visit Wednesday night. The two home dates for the women’s team this weekend will sandwich a men’s tussle with Marquette slated for 1:00 Saturday…Goalkeeper Timothy Murray, who worked up his biggest sweat of the season (9 shots faced) against the more-loaded-than-usual Hoyas, saw a 215:01 shutout streak end during Saturday’s outing in D.C…The Hoyas’ triumph last Saturday was their first overall win on their home turf in 2007, the other two coming in a neutral site exhibition (Harrison, Va. Sept. 2) and in a September 23 1-0 edging of host Louisville…Notre Dame sits atop the Blue Division with the last remaining undefeated record (5-0-1) in conference play. Similarly, their female counterparts are the only team in their conference still holding a perfect winning percentage (5-0).

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