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Minutemen will be final preseason test

Joe Meixell | Friday, August 27, 2004

The No. 9 Irish look to iron out any remaining wrinkles when they travel to Chicopee, Mass. Saturday to challenge the Minutemen in their preseason final tune-up.

“[Massachusetts] is a very solid team,” coach Bobby Clark said. “It’s a fundraiser for them so we know it’s going to be a good atmosphere and that there will be a lot of people there.”

Eager to match, if not better, last season’s Sweet 16 appearance, the Irish kicked off their 2004 campaign in impressive fashion Monday night, shutting out a visiting Northwestern squad, 2-0.

Forward Justin McGeeney drew first blood for Notre Dame at the 10:52 mark, tapping home a cross from midfielder Greg Dalby and staking the Irish to an early 1-0 lead.

Less than 10 minutes later, the Irish found the back of the net once again.

Beating several Wildcat defenders, midfielder Nate Norman pushed into the right corner of the box and fed forward Tony Megna in front of the goal.

Controlling the pass, Megna turned and fired past the outstretched right hand of Northwestern goalkeeper Justin Pines, extending the Irish advantage to 2-0.

The vaunted Notre Dame defense, home to a pair of 2004 Hermann Trophy Watch List members in goalkeeper Chris Sawyer and defender Jack Stewart, protected the 2-0 lead with relative ease, yielding nine shots, only three of which were on net and all of which were smothered by Sawyer.

After shutting out the Wildcats in front of a large, lively home crowd Monday night, the Irish will attempt to duplicate the feat away from the friendly confines of Alumni Field.

“I always try to get both a home game and a road game during these exhibitions,” Clark said. “It’s nice to get a game on your home turf, but it’s also good to take the team on the road before you actually play a league game.”

As the young season progresses, Clark, entering his fourth season on the Notre Dame sidelines, expects the Irish to continue to elevate their play.

“You just hope that every game you play the team starts to grow and get a little bit stronger,” Clark said. “We try to take something from every game and add a little bit to the next game.”

Following Saturday’s contest, the Irish venture south to Bloomington to open the regular season at Indiana’s Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.

After taking on Oregon State Sept. 3, the Irish kick off against Boston University Sept. 5 before heading home to host Evansville Sept. 10.