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Notre Dame takes on surging Seton Hall squad

Eric Retter | Friday, September 29, 2006

With the pieces of the season finally falling into place, No. 17 Notre Dame’s road trip to New Jersey will serve as an opportunity.

The Irish, who are undefeated in their last three games, will kick off a two game road streak Saturday at noon against Seton Hall. The Pirates (7-3-0, 5-1-0 Big East) currently lead the Big East Blue Division. Notre Dame (6-3-2, 4-2-0) is tied with Providence for fourth place with 12 points.

The Irish have begun to click offensively, and they now lead the Big East in goals, shots and corner kicks with 22, 196 and 79, respectively. Defensively, Notre Dame is tied with West Virginia with five shutouts in its 11 games. It trails conference leader St. John’s by one.

Those numbers have satisfied Irish head coach Bobby Clark, who said he is pleased with the way the team has come together.

“Winning reinforces what we already know – that we are a very good team,” he said. “Anyone who plays sport knows confidence is a very big part of someone performing, [and] it’s a very fragile commodity.”

The fact that Seton Hall currently sits atop the Big East leaderboard, however, has not been driving the Irish.

“At the end of the day, every game is very important,” Clark said. “The fact that they’re above us adds a little motivation to chip away, but it doesn’t change anything.”

The Irish will be led by junior forward Joseph Lapira, who tops the Big East with 11 goals. Lapira scored two goals in the first 11 minutes of Wednesday night’s game, helping Notre Dame go on to win 4-0.

Lapira has played the entire first half in each of the Irish’s last two games – something forwards haven’t generally done this season – but Clark was not sure that that trend would continue Saturday.

“Every game takes a different look,” Clark said. “It will depend on the game, the way Joe [Lapira] plays and the way the team plays. This isn’t a thing you can decide on Thursday night [before a Saturday game].”

Seton Hall will look to forwards Eliseo Giusfredi – who leads the team with six goals – and John Raus, who is tied with Lapira for the Big East lead with four game-winning goals. It will also depend on support from senior goalkeeper Ian Joyce, who was the Big East goalkeeper of the week starting Sept. 15.

For the Irish, Chris Cahill will again defend the net. Cahill, who has posted four shutouts in his eight games, was not challenged much in any of the last three matchups. Clark, however, is not worried about his senior.

“The hardest games for goalkeepers are games like the last three, [where] he’s had little to do but he’s still had to keep his concentration,” Clark said. “I think it’ll be easier for him once he gets a little more action.”

Ultimately, Clark is confident that the momentum Notre Dame has built the past week will carry into Saturday’s contest.

“Winning is a habit, and losing is a habit,” he said. “One of the hardest things to do is break a habit. Hopefully this habit [of winning] will be equally hard to break.”


u The Irish may play without senior midfielder Ian Etherington, who suffered a deep bone bruise in his leg Saturday against Pittsburgh and sat out Wednesday’s match against Marquette. His condition has been evaluated day-to-day.

u Notre Dame will play the second game of its road trip at Michigan on Wednesday.