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MEN’S SOCCER: Irish snag OT win over UM

Kate Gales | Monday, August 29, 2005

Exhibition games might not count for much in a team’s final record.

But as the No. 19/16 Irish work towards becoming a unit, a road win at Michigan is a solid final step of the preseason.

Ian Etherington’s goal in the 94th minute gave the Irish a 2-1 win over the rival Wolverines. The game was Notre Dame’s last of the 2005 exhibition season and also their first road match.

“We forced the game even though we were playing away from Alumni Field,” said coach Bobby Clark. “Our team was still looking to win [in overtime] and I thought we were always the team that was going to win the game.”

Irish midfielder Nate Norman drew the game’s first blood on a goal at 23:06. Dueling defenders for possession of a corner kick, the junior found the net from more than 30 yards away.

The Wolverines struck back in the 64th minute, as Kevin Savitskie scored off an Adam Bruh corner kick. Chris Cahill allowed the goal after replacing Justin Michaud, who notched three saves in the game. The score forced overtime for the second time in as many exhibition games for the Irish, who battled New Mexico to a 1-1 double-overtime decision last Monday.

However, a pass from freshman Matt Besler would give the golden goal to Etherington and the win to the Irish.

“I thought the wide midfielders – both Nate and Ian – both did very well,” Clark said. “Both scored excellent goals and you know, carried the play and were threatening throughout the game. These were the players that were causing Michigan a lot of problems throughout.”

Last year, the Irish struggled on offense, but return a number of talented and experienced players. In addition, Clark has encouraged fullbacks to get involved in the scoring-Ryan Miller, the right back, scored the team’s lone goal against New Mexico-and knows that his outside midfielders can score from deep and penetrate the opponent’s defense.

“Any good team has got to have good [midfielders],” Clark said. “[Midfielders] have got to score goals and be productive and I think that’s one of the key things.”

Through preseason play, one strength Clark pointed out is the team’s level of athleticism and physical fitness.

“I think the nice thing in both games, we kept looking to win, we kept looking to force the play,” Clark said. “This team is very fit, we looked a very fit team in both games we were playing.”

When the team plays such down-to-the-wire games, players who are already in soccer-playing shape are an asset – that and a level of determination that Clark has already noted.

“When we hit the overtime we were the team that was wanting to win the game, they were quite content to hold on,” he said.

Clark has many reasons to be excited for his squad’s season opener Sept. 2 against No. 7/8 SMU.

“I think we’re now beginning to become a team,” Clark said. “I don’t think we’re a team yet but we’re getting very close to it. We start off at the beginning of preseason a new group of guys, then I look at every game, we should become more and more of a unit … we always say that every game were going to improve a little bit every game.”