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MEN’S SOCCER: McGeeney’s goal clips Eagles’ wings

Kevin Brennan | Thursday, October 6, 2005

A 1-0 victory over Marquette Wednesday was just what the Irish needed.

Saturday’s tie with West Virginia had moved Notre Dame 2-2-1in Big East play. A year ago, the Irish lost just one conference game en route to the regular season league title.

But the team entered Wednesday’s contest at Marquette determined to start a run of solid performances.

“Going into [the game] after our result from West Virginia, we knew we had to come out with a win,” forward Justin McGeeney said.

McGeeney certainly did his part. The junior scored the game’s only goal in the 40th minute, and Notre Dame earned the win over the Golden Eagles.

The Irish aggressively set the tempo from the opening whistle and ended the game with a 10-7 shots advantage. Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark was thrilled with the way his team played Wednesday.

“I thought our team did a much better job tonight than the weekend,” Clark said. “It was a very, very solid performance. We controlled the game pretty well from start to finish.”

Junior midfielder Ian Etherington recorded the assist on McGeeney’s goal. After beating a defender on the left flank, Etherington fired a pass into the box. McGeeney leapt to meet the ball and headed it past Marquette goalkeeper Andy Kroll for the score.

“It was a picture-perfect goal,” Clark said.

McGeeney is now tied with forward Joe Lapira and midfielder Nate Norman for the team lead in goals with three on the year. McGeeney deflected most of the credit for Wednesday’s score to Etherington, though.

“It was a real good effort by Ian to beat his defender and put a good ball into the box,” McGeeney said. “I was left unmarked and basically had a free header into the goal.”

Notre Dame came away impressed with a Marquette squad that pressed all game and played stingy defense.

“They’re not a pretty team, but they are very well organized, well coached, and well disciplined,” Clark said. “They compete very hard.”

Despite this, the Golden Eagles were unable to find the back of the net. Irish goalkeeper Chris Cahill logged his fifth shutout of the season with Wednesday’s win. Cahill, who entered the year having to replace graduated all-American Chris Sawyer, improved his goals-against average to an impressive 0.87.

“Cahill’s been great,” McGeeney said. “His play has gotten better each game we’ve played. It’s been great to see him step up and fill those shoes.”

Cahill did not have all that much to do Wednesday, though, as the Irish defense limited Marquette to just two shots on goal. Clark pointed particularly to the outstanding play of centerbacks Dale Rellas and Ben Crouse in the game.

“Benny Crouse and Dale Rellas were superb,” Clark said. “They won every aerial challenge that came in. [They] really stopped most of the danger before it got to [Cahill].”

Rellas, who is one of the team’s three captains, has been sidelined by injuries for a large chunk of the season. If Rellas can stay healthy, it will bring some greatly needed stability to the Notre Dame defensive lineup.

“I hope Dale stays healthy, because we have not had that luxury of having a set back four,” Clark said. “If we have a set back four, it will definitely help settle the team down.”

The Irish will next take against perennial Big East power Connecticut Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Field. Clark is excited to take on the No. 9 Huskies at a time when his team is playing well.

“They are a very talented team,” Clark said. “That’s going to be a test for us. It’s got all the makings of a fabulous soccer game.”