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Men’s Soccer Commentary: Irish needed big win

Joe Meixell | Thursday, September 28, 2006

If routs can be called pedestrian, then Wednesday night’s contest was certainly a pedestrian game.

Notre Dame (6-3-2, 4-2-0) controlled an outmatched Marquette team, getting two goals from forward Joseph Lapira in the first 11 minutes on its way to topping the Golden Eagles 4-0.

Truth is, Notre Dame had no acceptable alternative but to dominate the Golden Eagles.

Statistically, the two units are on the opposite poles of the Big East record book, and that fact played out Wednesday night.

The Irish dominated in shots on goal, besting Marquette by a margin of 19-9. Notre Dame leads the Big East in shots with 196. Meanwhile, Marquette – in the Big East cellar with a 1-9-1 overall mark – has managed only 79 shots in its 11 games, while allowing opponents to tally 166.

Notre Dame, conference leader in corner kicks, out-shot Marquette seven to three. For the season, it holds a 79-33 advantage.

Not surprisingly, Notre Dame also holds a slight lead in total goals scored. After Wednesday’s four-spot, the Irish – who score in bunches when they score at all – have surpassed West Virginia for the conference lead in goals scored with 22. Going into and coming out of Wednesday night’s game, the Golden Eagles have just seven goals – a number one higher than the amount of times they have been shut out.

However, to see goals scored, a game against Marquette might still be the best bet. With 24 goals allowed, the Golden Eagles are at the bottom of the league.

Surprisingly, head coach Bobby Clark didn’t label Marquette Notre Dame’s weakest opponent.

“I don’t think it was the easiest team we’ve played [this] year,” he said. “I think we’ve actually lost to teams that have been easier than that. … We lost to UAB, and we dominated that one as much as this one.”

For much of the game, Notre Dame’s main concern was to avoid putting it into cruise control against a visibly inferior opponent. Even though the Irish took an early 2-0 lead, Clark left goal-scorer Lapira in the game until the 61st minute. Wednesday marked only the second game – and the second in a row – that Lapira had played the entire first half.

“When you score early, it’s easy to get in the mindset that game is over,” Clark said. “Suddenly they get a goal, and suddenly the whole thing changes. We wanted to put the game to bed.”

The Irish weren’t able to “put the game to bed” until the 72nd minute – well after Lapira and fellow starting forward Justin McGeeney had ended their nights.

Midfielder Nate Norman dribbled through a handful of Marquette defenders and fired it in from 15 yards to give the Irish a three-point lead with 18 minutes to play.

“Once that went in, it was no way back [for Marquette],” Clark said.

The Notre Dame bench would not be excluded from putting one past Golden Eagle keeper Marc Dettmann, and Bright Dike beat him in the 82nd minute for Notre Dame’s final goal.

With the way they played and the talent disparities between the two teams, the Irish probably could have put up even more goals Wednesday night.

Clark, however, had no reason to be anything but pleased.

“Let’s be honest, I’ll settle for four goals,” he said, laughing. “If I was guaranteed four goals every week, I’d be happy.”