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Men’s Soccer: Lapira, Dalby up for individual honors

Greg Arbogast | Tuesday, November 14, 2006

In a season that has been full of both individual and team accomplishments for Notre Dame, junior forward Joseph Lapira and senior midfielder Greg Dalby have added two more to the list.

Both Lapira and Dalby were named semi-finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, which is given out annually to the top Division I soccer player in the country. Lapira and Dalby are now part of a list that includes 13 other remaining semi-finalists.

Notre Dame joined No. 1 SMU and No. 7 Maryland as the only teams with multiple players on the ballot. But Irish coach Bobby Clark was quick to point out that this honor was indicative not just of Lapira and Dalby’s play, but of the team’s as well.

“[Dalby and Lapira] should be very proud because you don’t get this kind of honor without playing very well, but they’ll be aware that they’ve had a very good supporting cast that’s helped them get to where they are,” Clark said.

Lapira currently appears to be the frontrunner for the Hermann Trophy based on his statistics. The Big East Offensive Player of the Year and unanimous first team all-conference selection leads the nation in both points (45) and goals (20).

“If you’re going by the numbers, [Lapira] is absolutely the front runner for the award at this point,” Dalby said.

Some of Lapira’s season highlights include a mid-year stretch where he scored two goals in five consecutive games, as well as a four-goal outburst against Indiana in a 5-4 overtime victory Sept. 3. College Soccer News named Lapira the National Player of the Week, an award he captured twice this season, for his effort against the Hoosiers.

“In college, ten goals is a good season, so when you hit twenty goals, you’re flying,” Clark said. “As a coaching staff, we felt he possessed the ability to score goals, so this wasn’t completely unexpected.”

But with Notre Dame set to begin NCAA Tournament play Wednesday night against Illinois-Chicago, Lapira is focusing his attention on team goals rather than individual accolades.

“I don’t think winning the Hermann Trophy is even close to winning a National Championship,” Lapira said. “Anybody from any team can win the Hermann Trophy, but only a few teams are capable of winning a National Championship.”

Dalby, a pre-season nominee for the Hermann Trophy and a semi-finalist in the 2005 season, has impressed teammates, coaches and voters in a different manner than Lapira Despite only scoring two goals and tallying four points on the season, Dalby was named Big East Midfielder of the Year and was a unanimous first team all-conference selection.

Lapira, however, knows what the senior co-captain brings to the team.

“He’s not going to score spectacular goals, but he disrupts the other team and really serves as an anchor for our team,” Lapira said. “He’s a leader on the field, and he’s a really sound player.

Having started all 20 games for Notre Dame this season and all 85 games since he arrived in South Bend four years ago, Dalby has had plenty of time to make an impression on Clark.

“[Greg] Dalby reminds me a lot of [former German national team captain and World Cup champion] Franz Beckenbauer,” Clark said. “When the ball comes to him, everything seems to flow, and the game just seems to slow down.”

The three finalists for the Hermann Trophy will be announced Nov. 27, and the winner will be selected at a ceremony at the Missouri Athletic Club on Dec. 2.