Oct. 20, 2004
The fifth-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team won its 11th game of the season and strengthened its hold on first place in the BIG EAST Conference with a 1-0 victory at #17 Seton Hall (9-5-1, 4-4-0) in Newark on Wednesday afternoon. It was a freshman victory of sorts for Notre Dame (11-2-2, 6-1-1), as rookie Joe Lapira scored the game winning goal at 80:06 off an assist from classmate Alex Yoshinaga.
The game was moved to Lubetkin Field on the campus of NJIT when Seton Hall’s regular-season field was deemed unplayable due to inclement weather on Tuesday evening. Lubetkin Field features a FieldTurf surface, similar to Notre Dame’s practice surface in the Loftus Center back on campus which is Prestige Turf.
Game sites and playing surfaces aside, the victory was key for the Irish who, depending on the outcome of the remaining BIG EAST games on Wednesday, have come close to assuring themselves a first round host site for the BIG EAST Championship. The Irish also moved closer to their first BIG EAST regular-season title.
“It was a great result,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said after the contest.
“Any victory you can earn on the road in the BIG EAST is important. It was quite an even game and we created many chances in the box that we were not able to put away.
“It was also great for Chris Sawyer to get a shutout on his birthday.”
Born Oct. 20, 1982, Sawyer celebrated his 22nd birthday with his eighth shutout of the season and sixth (plus one combined) in the last eight games. Sawyer made three saves in the contest, none more important than his one-on-one stuff of SHU’s Michael Zotti in the 20th minute.
Notre Dame was forced to play into a strong wind in the first half and experienced a bit of bad luck when the wind suddenly died down at halftime. Seton Hall used the wind to build an 8-4 shot advantage in the first half, but the Irish reversed the trend in the second half to post a 7-4 total.
Lapira’s goal is his second of the season and second BIG EAST gamewinner of the year (he also scored the second goal in Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over Georgetown). He tapped home a great cross from Yoshinaga, who had worked his way down into the corner of the Pirate defense.
The Irish also were able to work in junior Dale Rellas late in the contest for defensive purposes. Rellas, a starter in Notre Dame’s central defense, has been sidelined for a majority of the season with a foot injury.
Notre Dame is now 1-0-1 on its three-game BIG EAST road trip after its victory on Wednesday and a 1-1 tie with #11/20 St. John’s last Saturday. One contest remains before the team returns home, a 7:30 match with Rutgers on Saturday.