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Notre Dame Men’s Soccer: Alive and kickin’

Eric Retter | Sunday, November 26, 2006

No. 12 Notre Dame is one step away from its first-ever Final Four, but Irish coach Bobby Clark isn’t approaching the team’s quarterfinal matchup with No. 4 Virginia any differently.

“You can’t get caught up in the prize, you have to focus on what you’re doing,” he said. “We give Virginia full respect, but we don’t change our preparation for anyone.”

With the game on Friday, Clark is still working on getting the Irish (15-5-2, 10-4-0 Big East) – who will travel to take on the Cavaliers (14-4-0, 6-4 ACC) – out to Charlottesville during the Thanksgiving travel rush.

“The biggest hurdle for us right now is getting our travel plans booked on the busiest weekend of the year,” he said.

The Irish have advanced this far by topping both Illinois-Chicago and No. 5 Maryland 1-0 in the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament, respectively, after receiving a first-round bye. Junior striker Joseph Lapira, who leads the nation with 22 goals, scored the deciding and only goal in each match. Saturday’s win over the Terrapins marked the second straight season that the Irish have bounced the defending NCAA champions from the tournament, as they beat in-state rival Indiana 2-0 in the second round a season ago.

Lapira and senior midfielder Greg Dalby will lead the Irish effort Friday. Each was named Big East player of the year at his respective position, and both are semifinalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, which is presented annually to the best college soccer player.

The Irish, however, may be without senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill and sophomore defender Jack Traynor. Cahill left Saturday’s game against Maryland with 10:38 remaining and did not return.

Clark hopes that both players will be ready come Friday.

“They both have a good chance of playing,” he said. “We’re going to give them both every chance to play.”

Virginia will be led by sophomore forward Yannick Reyering, who leads the Cavaliers with 11 goals and eight assists.

After their first-round bye, the Cavaliers advanced by topping Bucknell 4-0 in the second round and California 2-1 in the third round. Reyering scored both goals in the second half in Virginia’s win over the Golden Bears.

As of Monday, Clark said the Irish hadn’t begun to look at the Cavalier game tape, but he expected to start scouting Notre Dame’s opponent on Tuesday.

“We’re focusing on analyzing our last game right now,” he said. “We’re looking at what things we can take from the Maryland game and improve on. That’s our main focus is improving ourselves because that’s the one thing we can control.”

Though he had yet to look at film, Clark anticipated that Virginia would give them a look similar to what they saw from Maryland Saturday.

“I know [Virginia] will be a good team, that’s a given,” he said. “I imagine they’re in many ways similar to Maryland in ability – they’ll be that caliber of team.”