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Men’s Soccer: Starting on the right foot

Joe Meixell | Thursday, October 26, 2006

The result was never seriously in doubt Wednesday night at Alumni Field as No. 8 Notre Dame efficiently dispatched of DePaul 2-0 to advance to the second round of the Big East tournament.

The Irish outshot the Blue Demons 17-10 and the ball was in the DePaul half of the field for nearly the entire evening. Despite its advantage in possession, Notre Dame had trouble creating solid chances as DePaul seemed content to play defense, often bringing all 11 players back behind midfield.

“Before the game, my message to the team was to be patient because we knew they were going to put all their players back in their half,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “We just had to keep playing, keep moving the ball, and we did a good job of that.”

It wasn’t until the 41st minute that the Irish were finally able to break through the DePaul defense. Junior midfielder Kurt Martin dispossessed Blue Demon defender John Partyka and threaded a through-ball between two DePaul defenders into the path of an onrushing Joseph Lapira. DePaul keeper Brian Visser blocked Lapira’s initial attempt, but he collected the rebound and fired the ball into the back of the net.

Martin – who had two shots to go along with his assist – provided a spark off the bench for the Irish, consistently beating DePaul defenders with his quick turns and deft passing.

“[Martin] had a fabulous assist,” Clark said. “He comes off the bench maybe because there’s a little more space when he comes into the game, but what he does with the ball is magic. He’s an excellent player.”

Notre Dame doubled its advantage in the 55th minute on a play that started when senior midfielder Ian Etherington played the ball toward the end line. Lapira ran onto the pass and drove a low hard cross across the goalmouth. Senior midfielder Nate Norman fired the cross home to notch his second goal of the season.

“It was nice to see Norman get that insurance goal as it took some pressure off down the stretch,” Clark said.

Etherington played only his second match since leaving Notre Dame’s game against Pittsburgh Sept. 23 with a bone bruise. Clark is glad to have his two time all-Big East midfielder back for the postseason.

“It’s terrific having Ian [Etherington] back,” Clark said. “It gives us that little bit of depth as we can rotate guys throughout the midfield.”

With Wednesday’s win in the books, Clark already has his team preparing for its remaining games.

“From now on, every game we play is going to be against a good team,” Clark said. “This is a pretty level-headed group. We just have to do a good job of taking it one game at a time.”

The Irish will travel to Piscataway, N.J., next to play Rutgers in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.