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Men’s Soccer: Moving on

Dan Murphy | Thursday, November 29, 2007

No. 10 Notre Dame survived a late flurry of Oakland shots to advance to the NCAA round of 16 with a 2-1 victory at Alumni Field Wednesday night.

With the wind at their backs, the Irish dominated the first 45 minutes of play, outshooting the Grizzlies 8-2 in the first half. They also had a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks in the half.

Grizzlies goalkeeper Steve Clark managed to keep the game scoreless until the 35th minute when senior forward Joseph Lapira beat his defender to a pass near the goalmouth. Lapira passed up the shot and fed a streaking Alex Yoshinaga at the post. Yoshinaga tapped the cross in to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.

“I knew I was getting a [substitution] soon, so I knew I had one more run to make,” Yoshinaga said. “I just took off, and the guy that was on me was watching the ball, and I got behind him.”

Oakland struggled to control the ball for the rest of the half as strong winds killed every ball the visitors sent down the field. The Irish were able to maintain offensive pressure for the remainder of the half.

“[Oakland] is a very direct team. The way they play, playing with the wind is a big advantage for them,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said.

Ten minutes into the second half, Lapira added an insurance goal for the Irish. Fifth-year senior Ryan Miller crossed the ball and Lapira timed the play perfectly, sneaking behind his defender for a sliding tap-in.

“The timing to get in front of your man at the near post like that, that was a thing of beauty there,” Clark said.

Lapira, a 5-foot-10 senior, holds the record for career NCAA Tournament goals at Notre Dame – five – and has a habit of heating up at the right time of the season.

“Coach always preaches about getting to the near post. I kind of made a habit of it last year, but this year I haven’t been doing it as a much.” Lapira said.

Oakland turned up the pressure after the second Irish goal, switching to a 3-4-3 formation and pushing the ball deep into Notre Dame territory.

Grizzlies forward Endre Osnes cut the deficit to one with an unassisted goal with just under 25 minutes remaining in the game. Osnes collected a loose ball inside the penalty area, spun and beat senior keeper Chris Cahill in the lower left corner. The goal was the third of the year for Osnes.

Oakland continued to pour on the pressure with good scoring chances in the 70th and 73rd minutes. At one point, senior Sebastian Harris got loose and fired a rocket to the near post, but Cahill was in position and swatted the ball away with both hands.

“Cahill did very well handling high balls into the box tonight. That was always a threat,” Clark said.

Like Cahill, all three Notre Dame players that notched points are experienced veterans playing in their final NCAA Tournament.

“This group of seniors really wants it,” Clark said. “From the minute we lost last year, they have worked tremendously hard. This is the culmination of their work and hopefully we can push this thing a little bit further.”

Notre Dame will travel to California Saturday to take on UC-Santa Clara in the NCAA Round of 16.