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Men’s Soccer: Lapira, Irish blank Michigan

Greg Arbogast | Thursday, October 5, 2006

Junior forward Joseph Lapira scored two goals Wednesday, and the Irish defense, led by senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill, held Michigan scoreless en route to No. 8 Notre Dame’s 2-0 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

If the stats sound familiar, they should.

His performance was the fourth consecutive multi-goal game for the junior, the third shutout in four games for the Irish defense, and – most importantly for Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark – Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive victory.

“It was a well-deserved win,” Clark said. “We made a lot of good chances, and we could have had more [goals]. Anytime you get two goals on the road without conceding any, it’s a good win.”

With the victory, the Irish improved their record to 8-3-2 (5-2-0). Although the game against Big Ten-member Michigan won’t have any implications on the Big East conference standings, Clark noted that regional victories such as this one could improve Notre Dame’s chances of an at-large bid if it doesn’t win the automatic bid up for grabs at the Big East tournament.

With the two goals, Lapira increased his total to 15 on the season and took over the national lead in the category. Entering the game, Lapira was tied with Winthrop’s Isaac Saidi atop the NCAA goal list. Saidi scored once in Winthrop’s 2-1 victory over UNC-Asheville Wednesday.

“[Lapira] makes chances, and he’s one of the best strikers in the country,” Clark said. “He’s got to keep working at getting better. He still has the potential to grow.”

Lapira’s first goal came in the 16th minute, and it was nearly a carbon copy of his goal against Seton Hall Saturday. Sophomore midfielder Cory Rellas picked up an assist in his second-consecutive game as he sent in a cross that Lapira controlled and fired into the corner of the Wolverine net.

Lapira would double Notre Dame’s lead in the 63rd minute off a misplay by Michigan keeper Patrick Sperry. The play started when Irish junior midfielder Kurt Martin sent a through ball behind the Michigan defense toward an onrushing Lapira. Sperry arrived a split second before Lapira, but his misplay allowed the Irish forward to calmly deposit the ball into an open net.

While Lapira continues to spark the Notre Dame offense, the Irish defense has turned in equally impressive performances as of late. Wednesday was the team’s third-consecutive shutout, and Notre Dame has allowed only one goal in its last five games.

“The back four was very good today, but the defense starts with the forwards,” Clark said. “We play a very good attacking, aggressive style of defense. We pressure teams very well all over the field, and everyone is tuned into the team philosophy.”

Notre Dame will return home to face Georgetown Saturday at noon. The Irish will be looking to pick up their third consecutive conference win and fifth straight win.

“The team has finally started to come together in the last couple weeks,” Clark said. “This has kind of been our team’s history. We start out a little slow, and then we build a little rhythm.”