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Men’s Soccer: Irish top Seton Hall to move to second in Big East

Greg Arbogast | Monday, October 2, 2006

Notre Dame took another giant step in their ascent up the Big East’s Blue Division Standings on Saturday with a 2-0 win over first-place Seton Hall at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Irish win, combined with other Big East results, leaves Notre Dame in a three-way tie for second place with the Pirates and Providence. All three teams trail first-place West Virginia by one point.

Although Saturday’s victory put the Irish back in the Big East race, Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark downplayed his team’s victory.

“It’s a good game to win, but I don’t think I’ll read anymore than that into it right now,” Clark said. “There will be other big games to win. [Saturday] was an excellent win, and now we move on to the next game.”

As usual, it was junior forward Joseph Lapira providing the spark for the Notre Dame offense. Lapira tallied goals in the 10th and 71st minute to give him 13 on the season, nine more than the next highest Irish scorer. Lapira has scored two goals in three consecutive games, and he has five multi-goal games on the season.

“[Lapira] has a lot of potential,” Clark said. “We said at the beginning of the season that he has the potential to be the top offensive player in the Big East. That [statement] will do for now. Beyond that, he will just need to keep working.”

Lapira’s first goal came off a cross from sophomore midfielder Cory Rellas. Lapira drifted behind his defender, chested the ball down off Rellas’s cross and fired the ball past Pirate keeper Paul McHenry.

Lapira would double Notre Dame’s lead off a beautiful feed from freshman midfielder Michael Thomas. Thomas got behind the Pirate defense on an Irish counter-attack, drew two Seton Hall defenders and laid the ball off to an on-rushing Lapira who again slotted the ball past McHenry into the corner of the net.

While Lapira tallying points for the Irish is nothing new, the two Notre Dame goals did contain a couple of firsts for the team. Rellas, with his assist on the first goal, and Thomas, with his assist on Lapira’s second goal, tallied their first career points in an Irish uniform.

Rellas, who has been the main beneficiary in terms of playing time since senior midfielder Ian Etherington sustained a severe bone bruise in his leg, has pleased Clark with his play.

“Cory has played well all season, and wherever he’s been put, he’s played exceptionally well,” Clark said. “He has that quiet confidence and a tremendous work rate. He’s been superb this season.”

While the Irish offense, led by Lapira, has been stellar recently, the Notre Dame defense has been equally impressive as of late. Including their shut-out of Seton Hall, the Notre Dame defense has only given up one goal in their last four games.

Part of the credit has to go to Irish goalkeeper Chris Cahill, who recorded his second consecutive shutout Saturday night and his fifth shutout on the season. With Cahill in goal, Notre Dame’s record is 6-2-1.

“Cahill wasn’t overworked (against Seton Hall), but he’s playing with great confidence,” said Clark. “He’s settled into the position, and he’s giving our back four reassurance.”

Notre Dame will return to action this Wednesday night against Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Irish will enter that game riding a three-game winning streak and a four-game unbeaten streak.

“We’re coming together as a team,” Clark said. “It doesn’t happen in the first couple weeks of the season, but we’re building confidence and we’re starting to come together.”