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Men’s Soccer: After heartbreaker, Irish rebound

Joe Meixell | Monday, August 28, 2006

It was a down-and-up weekend for Notre Dame.

The Irish dominated UAB in every phase of the game except the scoreboard Friday night, as Jerson Monteiro’s goal in the 105th minute allowed the Blazers to escape with a 1-0 victory in the season opener for both teams.

Despite out-shooting UAB 23-5 and holding a 14-4 edge in corner kicks, the Irish could not capitalize on their many chances in Notre Dame’s opening game of the Mike Berticelli Memorial tournament. The Blazers, who seemed content during most of the overtime periods to sit back and play for a tie, would capitalize on what was their only shot on goal for the night.

UAB’s Dejan Jakovic drew a foul near the end line just outside the 18-yard box, giving the Blazers a free kick. The Blazers’ Two-Boys Gumede then sent a curling ball into the box and found a rising Montiero at the back post for the only goal of the game.

“[This game] will be a character test for us,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Our play was positive, but when it’s said and done, the result is what’s important.”

Throughout the night, there were many times when Notre Dame seemed poised to take the lead, especially in the second half. After earning ten corner kicks in the first half, the Irish out-shot UAB 15-2 in the second half.

Perhaps the best chance came in the 73rd minute when an Ian Etherington cross found an unmarked Alex Yoshinaga for a point-blank header from six yards out. Only a sprawling save by Blazer goalkeeper Jeremy Drake prevented Yoshinaga from giving Notre Dame the lead. It was one of eight saves on the night for Drake.

Senior forward Justin McGeeney almost secured the victory for the Irish with seconds to go in the first overtime when he settled a cross from forward Joseph Lapira and drove a hard shot towards the corner of the goal. The ball flew past the goalkeeper but a Blazer defender was there to clear the ball off the goal line.

Notre Dame had numerous other chances but just couldn’t find the back of the net.

“It was a combination of things,” Clark said. “The shots have to be better, but there were also good saves and clearances. We didn’t have Lady Luck on our side tonight.”

One bright spot for the Irish was the play of speedy freshman Justin Morrow. Morrow, who led Notre Dame with five shots on the night, came off the bench in the first half, second half and overtime to provide a dangerous option both crossing the ball and attacking the defense.

“He’s a tremendous athlete as we obviously saw tonight,” Clark said. “He did very well tonight. He caused a lot of danger.”

Along with Morrow, Michael Thomas saw significant minutes Friday night, indicating that both freshmen will be among Notre Dame’s options off the bench this season.

Friday night’s loss dropped the team’s record for the season to 0-1-0. The loss was the first for the Irish in the five-year history of the Mike Berticelli tournament. Before the defeat, Notre Dame held was 5-0-3 in the tournament, with titles in both 2003 and 2005.

Despite Friday night’s loss, Clark remained very upbeat about his team’s prospects for this season.

“I know [UAB] won, and they’ll be feeling happy and we’ll be feeling sad, but I know which team I’d rather be coaching,” Clark said. “This team has so much potential, and I’m so excited. This could be a fun season for us.”

Notre Dame 4, Creighton 1

After Friday night’s 1-0 double-overtime loss to UAB, Notre Dame took their frustration out on No. 8 Creighton, winning by the score of 4-1 Sunday in the final game of the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament.

McGeeney, who was Notre Dame’s leading scorer in 2005, led the way for the Irish with his first two goals of the season. Sophomore forward Bright Dike tallied his first official goal of the season, and Lapira also notched his first goal of the year to round out the scoring.

“We have a number of players who are huge threats,” McGeeney said. “We have great forwards and midfielders. I don’t think we’ve ever had this many threats at one time.”

The game started on a sour note for Notre Dame as Creighton opened the scoring in the second minute off a corner kick. Blue Jay defender Pietari Holopainen hit an in-swinging cross that found its way through a crowd of players and into the back of the Irish net.

Notre Dame responded decisively as McGeeney would score the first of his two goals only 12 minutes later. After receiving a pass from midfielder Greg Dalby, outside midfielder Nate Norman used multiple step-over moves to beat his defender and loft a ball into the box where McGeeney was able to flick the ball into the corner of the net.

Only four minutes later, McGeeney would give Notre Dame the lead. Off a long clearance by goalkeeper Andrew Quinn, Bright Dike flicked the ball into a sprinting McGeeney’s path. Using a spin move at the top of the box, McGeeney eluded his defender and unleashed a powerful shot into the top corner of the goal.

“Getting those two goals really settled the team, and it helped us feel like we were in the driver’s seat,” Clark said. “The one good thing about [Creighton’s] early goal was that it jolted our team into action.”

The second half was more of the same as McGeeney almost secured a hat trick when his header went off the crossbar in the 60th minute. The Irish were able to breathe easier in the 77th minute when Dike gave Notre Dame a two-goal advantage.

The play started when a wide-open Nate Norman received a long pass from midfielder Michael Thomas. Norman beat two defenders, drew the goalkeeper out and centered the ball to Dike, who tapped it into the open net.

Three minutes later, Lapira put the finishing touches on the game. Running onto another long pass from Thomas, Lapira proceeded to cut inside his defender and drive a low shot past the keeper into the near corner of the net.

“(This weekend) was two games of total domination,” Clark said. “I felt we played much better this weekend than we did in our two preseason games, and if we keep performing well, it’s only a matter of time before we start winning.”

While the offense looked impressive Sunday afternoon, sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Quinn, making his first career start for Notre Dame, also drew the praise of his head coach.

“He made some good saves,” Clark said. “He has terrific feet and great range. He settled in well after the goal, and it was good for him to make a couple of saves today.”

Sunday’s win evened Notre Dame’s record at 1-1-0, but they will still finish in second place for the Berticelli Tournament behind in-state rival Indiana -who won both their games this weekend. The Irish will have their chance for revenge, however, next weekend when they play the Hoosiers in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.

Notes:

– Yoshinaga was taken off the field in the first half against Creighton with an injury to his upper chest. Junior midfielder Kurt Martin was also helped off the field in the second half with a back injury, but he is not expected to miss significant time.

– With a 2-1 victory over UAB Sunday afternoon, Indiana secured first place in the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament with a perfect 2-0 record. The Hoosiers also defeated Creighton 1-0 on Friday night. Notre Dame and UAB both will finish at 1-1, but the Irish will take second place because of a better goal differential than the Blazers.