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Men’s Soccer: On to round two

Kate Gales | Monday, November 21, 2005

They’re still in it.

The Irish kept their season alive on Friday with a 2-0 win over Western Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame will play Indiana Tuesday night after advancing.

“I thought we deserved it fairly well,” coach Bobby Clark said. “I thought it was an interesting game, I thought they came to play and they had some very good players.”

Western Illinois managed just three shots on goal – all saved by Chris Cahill, who recorded his eighth shutout.

“Chris was excellent,” Clark said. “He obviously didn’t get overwhelmed tonight; what he did I thought he did very well.”

The defense had a particularly solid night against a Western Illinois attack that had a number of weapons.

“Although they didn’t get many good shots off I certainly felt they had players that could threaten us,” Clark said. “I thought we defended well as a unit. I don’t think it was just the defense, I thought we defended well as a whole today.”

Midfielder Greg Dalby said the idea of the entire team playing defense was important to the Irish scheme.

“I think it starts with our strikers,” he said. “We just make it really difficult for them [to get possession].”

Dalby, a semifinalist for college soccer’s highest honor, the Hermann Trophy, said he thought the team started slow after a long hiatus.

“We came out real slow, I don’t know if was just nervousness, I thought the first 10 minutes of the game was pretty back and forth,” he said.

However, the Irish hit their stride early with a goal in the 20th minute by Joe Lapira. Although a Western Illinois gameplan had been to keep the ball away from Lapira, he broke free on a pass play with defender Ryan Miller.

“He set up the ball to me around the [penalty kick] spot and I hit it left footed which doesn’t happen very often,” Lapira said.

The Irish retained the 1-0 advantage until Kurt Martin scored when a Western Illinois defender intercepted an Irish cross pass but misplayed it in front of the goal.

Lapira said that the Irish offense, which has struggled at times this season, has come a long way.

“Now we’re starting to click,” he said. “The communication between the midfield and the forwards is almost where it needs to be.”

Lapira, Justin McGeeney and Nate Norman were all dangerous in the offensive third for the Irish, and the defense was able to hold Western Illinois to just three shots.

On an individual level, Clark commented on Dalby’s play, which has been consistent all season.

“I thought Greg Dalby was great, I thought he was a great leader as he played today,” he said of the junior tri-captain. “I thought he took control of the midfield … winning balls, he was distributing the ball well, winning headers, he was pretty well doing everything tonight. He set a great example for the rest of the team.”

Although the Irish took time to find their rhythm in the game, Clark said the team was motivated from the start.

“If you come out flat in the NCAAs we’ve got a problem,” he said. “They know what they’re playing for and I think we’re very excited about this game today.”

Notre Dame faces in-state rival Indiana tomorrow at 7 p.m. The Irish lost 3-0 to the Hoosiers on Oct. 26.