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Martin leads the way in win

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Notre Dame wrapped up a successful preseason in front of a full house with a 3-0 win Monday over No. 14 Northwestern, a week after a 3-0 exhibition win over No. 9 New Mexico.

Despite the early success, Irish coach Bobby Clark knows that his team still has a long way to go to reach their goals. When asked what he thought of the team’s potential Clark responded, “You’ll have to ask me in December.”

“[The wins] don’t indicate much more except that we played well in these two games.”

Leading the way in both contests was senior forward Kurt Martin. Martin looked capable of taking over as a regular starter for the first time in his career. He scored six minutes into the New Mexico game and netted two more against the Wildcats.

“He’s a very good player,” Clark said. “He is very capable of scoring goals and hopefully he can maintain that form.”

Martin needed only three minutes to bury his first goal against Northwestern. He picked up a loose ball inside the box, wheeled and put it in the top left corner to give the Irish a quick lead.

Ten minutes later, lightning struck again.

This time Martin took over just across midfield and fired a rocket from 40 yards out. The ball found its way through two defenders and past Northwestern goalkeeper Misha Rosenthal for a 2-0 lead.

Notre Dame continued to dominate play for the remainder of the first half, and Martin picked up his fifth point of the game when senior forward Joseph Lapira finished a pass from his fellow attacker in the 17th minute.

Lapira, who won the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy last season as college soccer’s most exciting player, seemed to be recovering well from a strained calf earlier in the summer.

Clark was also impressed with strength his team showed throughout the middle of the field. Freshman Matt Armstrong stepped up for Notre Dame to replace 2007 graduate and two-time captain Greg Dalby.

“I thought Armstrong and Thomas really bolted down the middle very well,” Clark said. “Right through that middle was superb through the first twenty minutes.”

Dalby made the All-America team in his senior year and was a staple on the stingy Irish defense for four years.

The freshman has played well so far in the two exhibition matches and has won the starting job for the season opener.

Armstrong and the rest of his teammates will be tested right out of the gates as they face a flurry of powerhouse schools in their first few games. The season-opener pits Notre Dame against preseason No. 2 UCLA. The two will meet Friday night at the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind.

The Irish follow their game against the Bruins with three more perennial contenders in Maryland, Rhode Island and Northern Illinois.