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Men’s Soccer: Record rests

Eric Retter | Thursday, October 12, 2006

Notre Dame forward Joseph Lapira had a slow game Wednesday night – slow, for Joseph Lapira.

The Irish junior scored one goal and added one assist as he helped No. 8 Notre Dame (10-3-2) win 3-0 over Michigan State (6-5-2), ending his record streak of five straight games with at least two goals.

Irish head coach Bobby Clark was proud of his striker after the match.

“Joe [Lapira] actually had several opportunities when he could have shot [the ball] himself and he squared to other people,” Clark said. “There he is, possibly leading scorer in the country, but he’s still prepared to pass up chances. That says a lot for him.”

Lapira maintained his lead atop the national scoring list and increased his NCAA-best total to 18. Lapira also increased his total points tally – which also leads the nation – to 39.

He did all of his scoring in the second half, as he left the game in the seventh minute with a hamstring injury and didn’t play the remainder of the first half.

Clark doesn’t expect the injury to linger.

“Hopefully, [he’s fine],” Clark said. “[Taking him off] was really more precautionary than anything else.”

The Irish dominated the Spartans from the beginning of the wet and muddy first half. Notre Dame broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute, when midfielder Matt Besler headed a Nate Norman corner kick that trickled into the Spartan net. Senior midfielder Norman almost got a second assist in the 40th minute on another cross into the box, but sophomore forward Bright Dike’s header went inches wide of the goalpost.

The play came just minutes after Michigan State goalkeeper Jason Tillman pulled up lame after a running start for a goal kick. Play had to be stopped while Tillman shook off his injury, and for the rest of the game, he did not take goal kicks.

One minute before halftime, Norman again barely missed an assist after sending a low cross into junior forward Kurt Martin, who sent the ball over the top of the net. At halftime, the Irish had a 12-3 shot on goal advantage.

“We played well,” Clark said. “Start to finish, we played very well.”

The Irish continued to dominate in the second half. They didn’t score a goal, however, until the 72nd minute, when Lapira sent a corner kick into the box that bounced around in front of the net before freshman midfielder Michael Thomas put it past Tillman for his first career goal.

Lapira added a goal of his own two minutes later, breaking past two Michigan State defenders and crossing the ball into the net from the right side of the six-yard box.

That play proved to be Lapira’s last of the evening, since freshman Tamba Samba replaced him before play resumed.

“I said take [Lapira] off after the second goal, but then he goes and scores the third goal,” Clark said.

Lapira’s goal also proved to be the last shot Tillman would see in the game, as Spartan head coach Joe Baum put backup keeper Chris Austin in the goal. The substitution marked the first time this season that Tillman had not been on the field for Michigan State.

Against Tillman and Austin, the Irish totaled 23 total shots, compared to the six shots Michigan State fired at Notre Dame senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill, who picked up his seventh shutout of the season.

After the game, Clark was especially pleased with the play of his substitutes, which included Samba, junior midfielder Andrew Denton and freshman midfielder Dave Donahue.

“This is their opportunity to [earn another chance],” Clark said. “If they come on and do well, then the next time, you get excited.

“Considering two of our top midfielders [Ian Etherington and Alex Yoshinaga] are injured, it’s a very deep group. If we’re going to do something [in the postseason], you need a deep group.”