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Men’s Soccer: Team knocks out host Santa Clara

Greg Arbogast | Monday, December 3, 2007

Notre Dame’s run through the NCAA Tournament so far has a very familiar feel to it.

For the second consecutive season, the Irish have followed a second-round victory at home with a win over a higher-seeded opponent on the road in the Sweet 16.

The No. 10 Irish upset No. 7 Santa Clara 2-0 Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium. Last year, Notre Dame defeated No. 5 Maryland 1-0 in overtime in the round of 16.

Once again, it was forward Joseph Lapira leading the way for the Irish. Lapira, who scored the game-winning goals in Notre Dame’s two NCAA Tournament victories last season, netted the game-winning goal and notched an assist against Santa Clara. That tally brings Lapira’s total of NCAA Tournament goals to six – a Notre Dame record.

Lapira’s three points against Santa Clara marked the second consecutive Tournament game that the senior has recorded three points; he also had a goal and assist against Oakland last Wednesday.

That’s a major accomplishment for the striker, who had a nasty calf injury that limited his production early in the season.

“It’s tough when you’ve been unfit for the first part of the season,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Now, [Lapira] is fit. His confidence is getting higher every game, and that’s great because this is the part of the season when you want your top striker to have confidence.”

Lapira opened the scoring in the 68th minute when fellow senior Alex Yoshinaga attacked from the right side and fed Lapira, who found the back of the net. That was the same combination that opened the scoring for the Irish against Oakland. Except in that game, Lapira was the distributor and Yoshinaga the finisher.

Lapira helped Notre Dame double its lead in the 72nd minute when his cross found sophomore Dave Donahue. Donahue deposited the ball for a goal that was nearly identical to the one Lapira set up for Yoshinaga against Oakland.

Both Irish goals came against Santa Clara’s back-up keeper, Joseph Buttitta, who entered in the 47th minute after starter Kevin Klasila left with an injury. Klasila made two saves in the first half, but Buttitta didn’t record a stop.

“To be honest with you, we were pretty sad when the first goalie went out,” Clark said. “We thought he was looking really shaky, and our bench was hoping he would stay in the game.”

Irish senior keeper Chris Cahill, on the other hand, was his usual steady presence in the Notre Dame net. The keeper made five saves to record his 11th shutout of the season. It was also his fourth career NCAA Tournament shutout, a Notre Dame record.

Clark, however, felt that Cahill’s biggest contribution was helping break up Santa Clara’s crosses, most of which were directed at 6-foot-5 striker Jidi Ogunbiyi.

“He really settled us,” Clark said of Cahill. “He handled traffic that came into his area. He gave me the feeling that when he plays like that, nobody is going to beat him.”

With the win, the Irish broke the Broncos’ 18-game unbeaten-streak. Santa Clara’s last loss was on Sept. 7 to Brown.

In another parallel to last season, the Irish will have to win on the road if they wish to reach the program’s first-ever College Cup – soccer’s version of the Final Four. In 2006, Notre Dame lost 3-2 to No. 4 Virginia. This weekend, the Irish will take on No. 2 Wake Forest, which defeated West Virginia 3-1.