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ND Soccer: Miller time

Dan Murphy | Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fifth-year senior forward Ryan Miller scored two first-half goals, and No. 3 Notre Dame shut out No. 19 Michigan 3-0 at Alumni Field Wednesday night.

The Irish (7-1-2) extended their unbeaten streak to eight games overall, and it was their seventh straight game without a loss against the Wolverines. Notre Dame is 6-0-1 in its most recent games against its regional rivals.

“Michigan is our rival in just about every sport, and they’re a great soccer team,” Miller said. “It feels good to beat them, no matter what.”

The senior needed less than two minutes to get the Irish on the board Wednesday. He intercepted a pass around midfield and dribbled to within 20 yards of the net before beating Wolverines junior goalkeeper Patrick Sperry to the lower right side of the goal.

Miller’s second goal, which came in the 29th minute, was also unassisted. He picked up the ball a bit sooner than he had on his first score but made a nice move on a Wolverine to cut toward the middle of the field before firing the ball to the keeper’s right and sneaking it just inside the post.

“We wanted to really use our speed against their back line tonight because we felt we had an advantage there,” Miller said.

Notre Dame has been jumping out to quick starts consistently this season, netting 10 of its 16 goals in the first half. Miller attributed the team’s early successes to mental focus exercises the players do before each game.

“It really gets your mind ready to play,” he said. “That’s really important, it’s kind of underrated.”

Irish junior defender Cory Rellas also picked up a first-half goal for Notre Dame, five minutes before Miller’s second.

Junior defender Jack Traynor started the play with a free kick from just outside of the box. Sperry made the initial save and stopped a second shot, but was out of position for the rebound. Rellas tapped it in for his second goal of the season.

The Irish slowed down in the second half but kept the potent Michigan offense off of the scoreboard – despite a couple of good Wolverines scoring chances.

“I think we defended them fairly smartly, it was nothing more than that,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “[Senior goalkeeper Chris] Cahill looked very calm and collected in net tonight, and that’s very important.”

The solid lead allowed Clark to empty his bench throughout the game, with many reserves playing a substantial amount of time.

“The biggest bonus of the evening was having Michael Thomas back,” Clark said. “It was a boost for everyone getting him out there.”

Thomas, a sophomore midfielder, broke his jaw earlier in the season and has been sidelined for several weeks. The doctor approved him to play a few hours before the game started.

Sophomore forward Samba Tamba also returned from a foot injury to see his first action of the season.

“Tamba still has to get fit; it was easier [for] Michael because he could still run,” Clark said. “He lost a little fitness and mobility, but that will come back.”

Notre Dame will attempt to keep its perfect conference record intact Saturday when the Irish host West Virginia at 7 p.m.

Fifth-year senior forward Ryan Miller scored two first-half goals as No. 3 Notre Dame shut out No. 19 Michigan 3-0 at Alumni Field Wednesday night.

The Irish (7-1-2) extended their unbeaten streak to eight games this season and seven games against the Wolverines. They are 6-0-1 against their regional rivals.

“Michigan is our rival in just about every sport and they’re a great soccer team. It feels good to beat them no matter what,” Miller said.

The senior needed less than two minutes to get the Irish on the board Wednesday. He intercepted a pass around midfield and was able to drive to within 20 yards of the net before beating Wolverines junior goalkeeper Patrick Sperry to the lower right side of the goal.

Miller’s second goal, which came in the 29th minute, was also unassisted. He picked up the ball a bit sooner than he had on his first score but made a nice move on a Wolverine to cut towards the middle of the field before firing the ball to the keeper’s right and sneaking it just inside the post.

“We wanted to really use our speed against their back line tonight because we felt we had an advantage there,” Miller said.

Notre Dame has been jumping out to quick starts consistently this season, netting 10 of their 16 goals in the first half. Miller attributed the team’s success coming out of the gates to mental focus exercises the players do before each game.

“It really gets your mind ready to play,” he said. “That’s really important, it’s kind of underrated.”

Irish junior defender Cory Rellas also picked up a first-half goal for Notre Dame five minutes before Miller’s second.

Junior defender Jack Traynor started the play with a free kick from just outside of the box. Sperry made the initial save as well as stopping a second shot, but was out of position for the rebound and Rellas was able to tap it in for his second goal of the season.

The Irish attackers slowed down in the second half, but were able to keep the potent Michigan offense off of the scoreboard despite a couple of good Wolverines scoring chances.

“I think we defended them fairly smartly, it was nothing more than that,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “[Senior goalkeeper Chris] Cahill looked very calm and collected in net tonight, and that’s very important.”

The solid lead allowed Clark to open his bench throughout the game and a lot of different players saw a substantial amount of time on the field.

“The biggest bonus of the evening was having Michael Thomas back,” Clark said. “It was a boost for everyone getting him out there.”

Thomas, a sophomore midfielder, broke his jaw earlier in the season and has been sidelined for several weeks. The doctor approved him to play a few hours before the game started.

Sophomore forward Samba Tamba also returned from a foot injury to see his first action of the season.

“Tamba still has to get fit, it was easier Michael because he could still run,” Clark said. “He lost a little fitness and mobility but that will come back.”

The Irish continue to gain momentum and depth as they move into the second half of the season.

Notre Dame will attempt to keep their perfect conference record intact this Saturday when they host West Virginia at 7 p.m.