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MEN’S SOCCER: Cahill named to award list

Kate Gales | Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Filling the cleats of an All-American goalkeeper isn’t an easy task, but all 6-foot-6 of Chris Cahill is proving to be up to the task.

The junior goalkeeper, who did not see action for his first two years with the Irish, stepped into goal at the beginning of the season and won the starting spot. After posting his first two shutouts last weekend, he was named Big East Goalkeeper of the Week.

“I wouldn’t say it’s anything more than just a reflection of the overall defensive efforts in those games,” Cahill said, calling the recognition “an overall defensive award.”

Cahill earned the starting spot in goal after a heated summer and preseason battle between the four keepers on the Irish roster.

“We’ve got two, really we’ve got four good goalies on the team, with the two freshmen and the senior, Justin Michaud,” he said. “It’s good to have a fire burning under you all the time and I don’t ever really imagine myself becoming content because there’s always someone there pushing me to get better.”

Cahill excelled in prep soccer in his hometown of Louisville, Ky.

“He was first spotted at our elite camp over the summer,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. Cahill was a three-time All-Star at the camp. “He caught our eye … he’s come in and done a first-class job.”

Standing tall at six and a half feet, Cahill has a natural size advantage.

“As a goalkeeper you certainly cover more real estate if you’re big, so he covers a fair amount of real estate,” said Clark. “He’s got a big wingspan.”

Fortunately, Cahill has managed to avoid two common pitfalls of tall goalies: awkwardness and struggling with balls on the ground.

“Quite often tall people, they’re not always as well-coordinated, as athletic, and Chris is one of those fortunate people, not only is he big but he’s well coordinated,” Clark said. “He’s a very good athlete, he’s quick on his feet and he can move. He’s obviously good with high balls, with balls in the air, but he’s also very, very quick at getting down for low balls.”

The Knott resident claims to have had his nerves under control before stepping on the field for his first collegiate game time.

“I think I was nervous, definitely, but it was a good sort of nervous,” he said. “It was a nervous energy that I think I needed, I think it’s a good thing to be a little bit nervous – if you’re not that’s when you’ve got something to worry about.”

Fortunately, Cahill has had the guidance of excellent goalie coach Brian Wiese, one of Clark’s assistant and a coach who focuses on guiding Notre Dame’s traditionally outstanding keepers.

“Brian’s done a great job with this one,” Clark said. “He did a good job with [last year’s goalie Chris] Sawyer as well. … He does a fabulous job with all the goalkeepers.”

Cahill appreciates Wiese’s expertise as well.

“As far as a coach he’s everything you’d want,” said Cahill. “He takes us through every single day and whatever we need, he’s got us on our toes working on our weaknesses. It’s no use practicing the things you’re good at.”

Michaud has also helped keep the Irish defense steady.

“They both worked hard and one of the most pleasing things for me was to watch at halftime Justin was out warming up Chris, getting ready,” Clark said. “He was a rival and they both work so well to help one another and to improve each other.”

This goes with another of Cahill’s observations: the team-first attitude of the Irish.

“I was definitely confident,” he said of his first times in goal, “because I know that the guys in front of me are going to make the job as easy and as simple as possible.”

To Cahill, though, it’s not just the defense stepping up and making stops so he doesn’t have to. Unity is a huge factor in the past success of the Irish and in their future hopes.

“I feel like our team is 25 guys that are all best friends, so whatever we’re doing it’s as a team and there’s really just an unbelievable amount of unity on this squad,” Cahill said. “From top to bottom every single person contributes … everybody’s got a positive attitude and it’s one of the really strong points on our team, that bond that everybody has.”

Hesitant to refer to refer to the team as a family – “that’s too cliché,” Cahill said – he pointed out that what keeps him going are “his boys.”

“You’re always motivated to go out and play your best because you don’t want to let your teammates down,” he said.

But Clark will need Cahill to step into a leadership position for the Irish to see success and realize their goals for this season.

“I think at the moment he’s just been establishing himself as the goalkeeper, now he has got to become a leader,” Clark said. “I think its really important that a goalkeeper does become a leader in the backfield and I think it’s something he’s starting to realize and something he’s really starting to work on.”