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Battering the Rams

Greg Arbogast | Monday, September 10, 2007

Due to a combination of injuries and cards, the Irish squad that took the field this weekend featured some new faces, but No. 8 Notre Dame managed a win over Rhode Island and a draw with Northern Illinois to finish in second place in the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament.

Already missing starting center midfielder Michael Thomas, who broke his jaw last weekend against UCLA, things went from bad to worse for the Irish on Friday night against Rhode Island.

Senior forward and 2006 Hermann Trophy winner Joseph Lapira pulled up grabbing his hamstring while chasing down a long ball in the 11th minute.

Though Lapira would return to play about 30 minutes Sunday against Northern Illinois. the injury ended his night against Rhode Island. The Irish had no problem coping without him, cruising to a 3-0 victory.

The scoring started before Lapira’s injury when sophomore Dave Donahue, starting in place of Thomas, notched his first goal in an Irish uniform. Senior Ryan Miller fed an overlapping Kyle Dagan down the right side.

Dagan’s cross skipped through the Rhode Island box to an unmarked Donahue at the back post, who made no mistake sliding the ball into the Ram net first-time.

Another new face made his way on to the scoring sheet when sophomore Justin Morrow tallied his first career goal to double Notre Dame’s lead in the 57th minute. In for the injured Lapira, Morrow ran down an Alex Yoshinaga through ball, beat one defender on the end line and cut back towards the center of the box, firing past Ram goalie Chris Pennock.

“It was nice to see Morrow get his first goal in a Notre Dame uniform,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “He played real well, and he caused a lot of trouble. I thought that was a real positive.”

There still were negatives to come for Notre Dame, though, as senior goalie Chris Cahill appeared to injure his quad muscle late in Friday night’s game, and junior defender Jack Traynor was sent off after receiving his second yellow card.

Although the personnel losses were heavy heading into Sunday’s game with Northern Illinois, Clark did not appear too worried about the short or long-term prospects for his team.

“[The injuries] shouldn’t have any effect, and I don’t think it does,” Clark said. “This is an opportunity for the youngsters, and this is when you’ve got to step up. [Injuries] were how Joe Lapira got his chance his freshman year, and the youngsters can’t wait to take advantage of this.”

It would be one of those youngsters who gave Notre Dame a chance to win Sunday afternoon against the Huskies. With the two teams tied at 1-1 entering the second overtime period, Donahue arrived first at a loose ball in Northern Illinois’ penalty box, where a vicious slide tackle from Huskies defender Chris Rufa took him down.

The referee pointed immediately to the penalty spot, but Martin’s kick sailed over the crossbar.

“[The penalty kick] would have been the icing on the cake because that would have been the game right there,” Clark said. “That’s what makes it hard. That’s what makes it seem like a loss because you had the game within your grasp.”

Despite missing the penalty kick, Martin was the primary reason Notre Dame didn’t lose the game. After receiving a pass 40 yards from the Huskies goal, Martin took two touches and let rip from 35 yards out. Northern Illinois’ goalie Joe Zimka was helpless as Martin’s shot knuckled over his head, dipping down into the back of the net.

The Huskies tied the game 11 minutes later when forward Ben Thomas slipped behind the Irish defense and finished low near post past an onrushing Cahill.

Notre Dame will be back in action next Saturday when it opens Big East play at Marquette.

Notes

u After leaving Friday’s game with a muscle injury, Lapira came back to play in the second half and the first 10-minute overtime against Northern Illinois. Clark said he removed Lapira from the game after the first overtime period because he didn’t want to push Lapira once he became tired.

u Cahill played Sunday’s game with a heavy wrap over his right quadriceps, and his short goal kicks showed that his leg was not at 100 percent. Clark, however, said Cahill should fully recover by next weekend at Marquette.