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Irish blank ‘Cats in preseason tilt

Matt Puglisi | Wednesday, August 25, 2004

While most downplay the importance of exhibition games, head coach Bobby Clark disagrees.

“[The exhibition games] are huge – they’re all you get to put a team together,” Clark said. “They give you a chance to evaluate, build up team cohesion and just generally start to build the team.”

If Monday night is any indication, the No. 9 Irish are off to a good start.

Behind a pair of goals from forwards Justin McGeeney and Tony Megna and a shut out by 2004 Hermann Trophy Watch List goalkeeper Chris Sawyer, Notre Dame cruised to a 2-0 victory over Northwestern at Alumni Field in front of a crowd of 2,100 Monday.

McGeeney kicked off the scoring for the Irish, slotting home a cross from defender Greg Dalby for a quick 1-0 advantage 11 minutes into the contest.

Notre Dame struck again not 10 minutes later when midfielder Nate Norman sliced into the right corner of the box and found a waiting Megna. Controlling the ball, Megna calmly beat Northwestern goalkeeper Justin Pines inside the right post to double the Irish lead and post what would be the final goal at the 20:17 mark.

Staked to an early 2-0 lead, Sawyer ensured the Irish remained on top, recording three saves in the game, including one brilliant stop on a close-range Northwestern blast in the second half.

Although the Irish had a number of opportunities to extend their lead late in the game, they were unable to find the back of net.

McGeeney paced the Irish attack, unleashing a team-high 5 of 19 total Notre Dame shots, while midfielder Ian Etherington posted three and both midfielder Kyle Dulworth and Megna had a pair.

All things considered, Clark was pleased with the Irish effort.

“In many ways we were just getting our shape, getting to play with one another and working on both sides of the ball,” Clark said. “When they had the ball, did we have good shape, and were we able to pressure when they moved into dangerous areas? When we had the ball, could we penetrate, get forward quickly, and keep the ball?

“We did a reasonable job at times, some times better than others. I think we did quite well, but I also know that we still have quite a lot of room to improve.”

With the first of two exhibition games under its belt, Notre Dame travels to Chicopee, Mass., Saturday to challenge Massachusetts at 7 p.m. in its final preseason game.

The Irish open the regular season Sept. 3 when they lock horns with Oregon State in Bloomington, Ind. at Indiana’s Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.