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Exhibition matches showcase Irish offense and fitness

Justin Schuver | Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The games might not count, but that doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.The 12th-ranked Irish competed in a pair of exhibition matches recently, defeating No. 11 Saint Louis 2-0 Saturday on the road and tying Michigan 1-1 Monday night at home.

In Saturday’s game, the Irish were led by forward Justin Detter, who had three points and was a factor in both goals for his team. He got Notre Dame on the board in the 49th minute with a 12-yard shot that beat Saint Louis goalkeeper Martin Hutton.

Detter would later assist on the second goal of the game, as forward Devon Prescod picked a free ball out of a scramble in front of the net and shot it into the goal.

Prescod and Detter were the offensive forces for the Irish in that game, accounting for seven of Notre Dame’s 10 shots on goal. Irish goalkeeper Chris Sawyer needed to make only two saves to preserve the shutout.The game was played before a crowd of 5,008 at Saint Louis’ Robert R. Hermann Stadium, the second-largest men’s soccer crowd in the stadium’s history.

Monday, the Irish hoped to use their momentum to take care of an unranked Michigan and impress the crowd of over 1,500 who came out to watch the exhibition at Alumni Field.

Early in the first period, it looked like it might be another easy win for the Irish, with the home team putting pressure on the Michigan defense with a series of great runs and a few shots which just missed the target.Notre Dame finally took advantage of their offensive dominance in the 20th minute of the first half when Prescod scored his second goal in as many games.

Midfielder Greg Martin dribbled the ball up the left side of the field, and then made a nice pass to Prescod in traffic, who then lobbed a shot past Michigan goalkeeper Peter Dzubay. Midfielder Jack Stewart was also awarded an assist on the play.

Michigan’s best chance in the first half came with about ten minutes to play when Wolverine forward Kevin Robinson got off a hard shot which was blocked by Irish defenseman Ben Crouse. Sawyer came diving out to collect the rebound, which set off a loud cheer by the student section as the Irish were able to maintain their slim 1-0 lead going into halftime.The lead didn’t last long. Just two minutes into the second half, Michigan scored the equalizer as speedy forward Jeff Mirmelstein dribbled around two Irish defensemen and then shot the ball through another Irish player’s legs and past a diving Sawyer.

It was Michigan who had most of the pressure early in the second half, playing with a much more physical edge and seemingly catching the Irish off guard with play from quick forwards like Mirmelstein.

“I think [Michigan’s physical play] might have caught us at the start of the half,” said coach Bobby Clark. “I thought we were trying to push the game later in the half, though, and they were only playing for the tie.”Rough play resulted in several yellow cards for both Michigan and Notre Dame players, but no ejections or serious injuries. Irish midfielder Martin Goldthwaite went down in the 24th minute after a collision.

Each team had one last chance to score the go-ahead goal late in the half. In the 38th minute, Michigan goalkeeper Joe Zawacki dropped a save, but was able to pounce on the rebound before two Notre Dame forwards could get to the ball.

In the 44th minute, Michigan midfielder Mike White came in from the right side and took advantage of a tired Irish defense to face Sawyer one-on-one. White got off a hard shot, but Sawyer was able to dive to block the shot, and White sent the rebound attempt just wide of the net.”[Sawyer] comes out with a lot of big saves,” Clark said. “That was a real opportunity [for Michigan].”

Despite outshooting the Wolverines 15-9, the Irish were unable to come up with another goal and the game ended in a tie. Sawyer made three saves for the Irish, and Prescod was the leading scorer with two points.”I really thought our guys looked the fitter team,” Clark said. “It’s nice to win them all, but at the end of the day they really don’t count. We got a few of our freshmen in this game, and I think a few more players got a bit more confident tonight.

“The crowd was terrific,” he added. “I wish we’d been able to give them more goals. Maybe they’ll come back and we can give them some more next time.”

The Irish open up the regular season Friday against Alabama-Birmingham in opening round action of the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind. Notre Dame opens regular season play at home Saturday, Sept. 9, against Big East-rival St. John’s.