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Men’s Soccer: Irish knock off Hoosiers, lose to Clemson

Kate Gales | Tuesday, November 29, 2005

After a 2-0 win over Indiana to advance to the Sweet 16 on Sunday, the Irish fell 1-0 to Clemson to end a memorable season.

Although the Hoosiers beat the Irish 3-0 at Alumni Field in the second to last game of the regular season, the Irish struck back with a 2-0 win in Bloomington to end the tournament hopes of the two-time defending champions.

The team then played a close match with unseeded Clemson, losing 1-0 on a first-period goal.

“I thought we were very, very unfortunate not to take more out of that game,” head coach Bobby Clark said.

Clemson 1, Notre Dame 0

Coming off the emotional high of beating the tournament’s No. 3 seed at home, the Irish traveled east to face unseeded Clemson.

“I think we’ve been playing very confidently as we’ve come through the final part of the season,” Clark said.

After finishing the regular season 10-6-2, Notre Dame played well in the Big East Tournament despite a loss to St. John’s and entered the NCAA Tournament unseeded. This was the program’s third trip to the Sweet 16, the farthest any Irish team has ever advanced.

“The two games we played in the NCAAs, we looked a very good team in both games,” Clark said. “In fact we looked a very good team Sunday, but we were a little bit unfortunate I think.”

Clemson’s Dane Richards scored early in the first period in what would be the game’s only goal.

“He got in behind our back four and Chris came out and kind of half-blocked it, didn’t quite stop it and [Richards] got on the rebound and finished it off behind Chris,” Clark said. “It was a tough ball to lose on.”

The Irish struggled to penetrate a bunkered-down Clemson defense that featured two solid players in the middle of the field.

“To be honest, they just had a lot of bodies back there, especially in the second half,” Clark said. “It was hard to break them down.”

However, for a team that some said might not make the NCAA Tournament, it was a solid finish to the season, despite the loss. A number of players, including Greg Dalby, Ryan Miller, Ian Etherington and Joe Lapira, return next year.

“The mere fact that they return doesn’t guarantee anything,” Clark said. “It’s nice to have them returning, but they must get better and I think that must be the message that they must force on one another.”

After tasting the Sweet 16, the Irish can start to work for more next season.

Notre Dame 2, Indiana 0

The Irish played an excellent second half to end Indiana’s nine-game NCAA Tournament winning streak. They avenged a regular-season loss against their in-state rivals on a solid defensive effort as well as goals by Justin McGeeney and Lapira.

“It was an NCAA game and it was the finality of the outcome of the loser, but there was also the case that they had come up here and handled us pretty easily a few weeks before,” Clark said. “I think these two factors heightened this result.”

The win – a highlight of the season and perhaps the program’s history – featured outstanding performances from the offense and defense alike.

“Everybody played very well,” Clark said. “You can’t go to play [Indiana] in a tournament game and have many bad performances.”

Goalkeeper Chris Cahill recorded six saves against the Hoosiers, who were particularly dangerous in the first half.

“[It] looked as though we were nervous and they got in behind us and Chris Cahill had a couple of good saves at that time,” Clark said. “He had two excellent saves right at that period.”

In the second half, the Irish came out firing on all cylinders, finding the net in the 55th minute.

“The first goal was an absolutely beautiful goal,” Clark said. “Ian Etherington put a great cross over to Justin McGeeney and it was a great finish with his head.”

Lapira’s goal six minutes later gave the Irish a more comfortable lead. He has a team-leading seven scores on the season.

Defensively, the Irish prevented one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses from finding the back of the net.

“The central defenders – the two seniors, Dale Rellas and Benny Crouse – I thought were superb in that game,” Clark said. “And I thought Ryan Miller, his attacking flair out of the right back position was terrific.”

But it was Dalby, a junior tri-captain and semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s most prestigious award, who earned special recognition from Clark.

“He has been a captain, he has been a player,” Clark said. “I think if I was singling anyone out in all the game I would have to highlight Greg Dalby. He has shown in all these games why he is the semifinalist for the national award. He was immense.”

This was Notre Dame’s fourth win at Indiana in 26 games.