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Sophomore goalkeeper Matt Brutto

The Hoyas’ home whites were dripping wet and splattered with mud after 90 minutes in the rain, but their score sheet was perfectly clean after they shut out the West Virginia Mountaineers 1-0.

The credit for another zero in the goals-against column goes to sophomore goalkeeper Matt Brutto, who managed the back four remarkably and maintained his composure between the posts to assure that no shots would find the back of the net.

Head Coach Brian Wiese, a former goalkeeper himself, praised the sophomore’s performance. “With the slick field and the wind howling and gusting, I thought Matty Brutto did a terrific job, handling balls in that weather,” he said. “He got the shutout from what would seem like pretty routine saves today but, I tell you, he had to keep his hands dry as much as possible punching those balls away.”

Brutto recorded his eighth clean sheet of the season, tying the Hoyas’ 1998 record set by Tyler Purtill, who graduated in 2000. True to the number on the back of his shirt, the Hoya No. 1 is currently the highest-ranked goalkeeper in the nation, with a perfect save percentage and goals against average.

“It’s exciting,” Brutto said of his NCAA ranking, “but the credit all goes to the team. I couldn’t have posted those zeroes without the backline.”

Brutto shares the honors for last weekend’s victory with junior midfielder Scott Larrabee, whose goal in the 64th minute put the Hoyas at 9-3-3 on the season. The left-winger read the hesitation on the Mountaineers’ center back, and sprinted forward to intercept the defender’s weak pass across the face of the goal. Larrabee’s momentum was too much for the wrong-footed defenders, and his carefully placed shot was no match for the goalkeeper, blasting it into the back of the net and sending the whole bench to its feet.

“What a world-class finish,” Wiese said. “The goalkeeper, who’s arguably one of the best goalies in the league, couldn’t do anything about it. To be honest, it’d take a world-class finish to beat that goalkeeper and Scotty did it today.”

“It was probably the best goal I ever scored in my life,” Larrabee said. “I was so excited.”

The goal from the Big East offensive player of the week came after a largely forgettable and scoreless stretch of play, where the slick conditions seem to play in favor of the away team. “I thought the weather suited West Virginia and they handled it pretty darn well,” Wiese said. “I feel like we stole one today. They had some chances, and we certainly weren’t able to get our style of soccer put onto the field today.”

The Mountaineers outshot the Hoyas 5-4 in the first half, and forced Brutto into two point-blank saves and numerous ventures off the line to punch away incoming long balls.

Larrabee’s goal came with 27 minutes left in the game, and the Hoyas focused more on their defensive duties as the Mountaineers looked desperately to equalize. While beefing up on defense, the hosts were again on the short end of attempts at goal, taking just three in comparison to the Mountaineers’ four in the second half. The West Virginia goalkeeper’s only save opportunity in the second period was Larrabee’s winner, while Brutto had to save two shots on target to guarantee victory for the Hoyas.

“Coach was telling us that this is the game we needed to win, going into Notre Dame next weekend,” Brutto said, “and we did.”

“[These are] three big points for us,” Wiese said, “huge, huge result. We have one week left and it’s really crunch time. We travel down to South Bend next, going against one of the best teams in the country right now. . No easy task.”

And it definitely will not be an easy task for the Hoyas to play in Indiana on Wednesday, where there is a forecast of snow showers and temperatures as low as 34 degrees in the upcoming few days. The forecast will be the least of the Hoyas’ worries, however, since they will go up against a team that is ranked 13th in the nation, one that handed the Blue and Gray a 4-1 defeat in 2006, the last time that the two teams faced off on the Fighting Irish’s home field.

The match will be especially challenging for Wiese, who was a former assistant coach at Notre Dame, and has played and coached under the wing of Irish Head Coach Bobby Clark, a relationship that goes back as early as 1991.

This matchup was intended for a fortnight ago, but was delayed due to the norovirus outbreak. The team, who was rearing to go out to Indiana two weeks ago, is still, according to Wiese, equally as motivated now as they were then, if not more. “Later in the year, you know better what is on the line,” he said, “Before, you’d say `Yes, it’s a big game, I’m sure,’ but now you can actually do the math. And if we win, we may be playing for the league at home on Saturday against Marquette.”

Wiese’s team will face off against his mentor’s tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in South Bend, Ind.

“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve been playing for something at the end of the season that’s meaningful,” Wiese added. “I don’t think our guys are going to have any motivation issues.”

“Things are looking pretty well,” Larrabee said of the Hoyas’ chances for post-season play. “If we win these last few games, we could potentially win our league.”

For staff writer Hijab Shah’s take on Hoya futbol, check http://blogs.thehoya.com/paranoia/?p=365#more-365.

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