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Men’s Soccer: High hopes

Greg Arbogast | Friday, November 30, 2007

After moving closer to its goal of reaching the program’s first College Cup with a 2-1 win Wednesday over Oakland, No. 10 Notre Dame will travel to take on No. 7 Santa Clara Saturday at 10 p.m. in an NCAA Tournament round of 16 match.

This marks the third straight season that the Irish have advanced to the Sweet 16 and the third straight year they have to win on the road in order to reach the Elite 8.

In 2005, Notre Dame fell 1-0 at Clemson. But the Irish defeated Maryland 1-0 in overtime last season to advance to the program’s first Elite 8, where they lost to Virginia.

This season, Santa Clara stands in Notre Dame’s way after the Broncos defeated UCLA 3-1 Wednesday at home. Such a decisive result has been the norm this season for Santa Clara (16-1-4), which holds an 18-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s match.

The Broncos only defeat in 2007 came all the way back on Sept. 7, when they fell 2-1 to Brown – who is the No. 6 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame will be going up against a stiff Santa Clara defense. The Broncos have allowed only 0.63 goals per contest. Santa Clara has shut out nine opponents, and its defense has more than one goal only twice.

Luckily for the Irish, they have Joseph Lapira.

The reigning Hermann Trophy winner is the Notre Dame record holder for goals in the NCAA Tournament with five. Lapira was on his game against Oakland, scoring a goal and notching an assist.

“Hopefully, he keeps it going,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Hopefully, he has a few more in his bag.”

Lapira isn’t the only player who stepped up against Oakland.

Fellow seniors Alex Yoshinaga and Ryan Miller made significant contributions. Yoshinaga tallied the first goal, and Miller assisted on Lapira’s score. Clark recognizes the importance of this group’s leadership for his team in the NCAA Tournament.

“This group of seniors really want it,” Clark said. “They’ve worked awful hard from the minute we lost last year at Virginia. This is the culmination of their work, and hopefully we can push this thing a little further.”

Should Notre Dame defeat Santa Clara Saturday, it would advance to play the winner of the match between West Virginia and Wake Forest. A win by the Mountaineers would give the Irish one final home game; a Demon Deacons victory would mean Notre Dame’s path runs through Winston-Salem, N.C.