Oct. 21, 2006
STORRS, Conn. – A Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) goal in the 65th minute is all the scoring the No. 6 Notre Dame men’s soccer team would need in defeating No. 14 Connecticut 1-0 in front of 3,831 fans at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium on Saturday evening. It was the final match of the regular season for the Fighting Irish, who finished with a 12-4-2 mark overall and an 8-3-0 record in the BIG EAST. Tonight’s game can be seen on CSTV this Monday (Oct. 23) at 8:00 p.m. (ET).
Notre Dame locked up the BIG EAST Blue Division No. 3 seed for the upcoming BIG EAST Championship. The Irish will host DePaul on Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. (ET). Connecticut drops to 10-5-2 and 8-2-1 in the league and are the No. 2 seed from the Blue Division.
The Irish pressured Connecticut in the opening minutes as senior Greg Dalby (Poway, Calif./Poway) sent a shot on goal, which was scooped up by UConn goalkeeper Matt Sangeloty. In the 12th minute, Nate Norman’s (Rochester, Mich./Rochester Adams) shot on goal was deflected by Sangeloty and put out of bounds. Notre Dame held a 6-2 advantage in shots in the opening stanza and a 12-8 margin for the match.
Notre Dame’s defense was tested early but held strong as center back Dale Rellas (Plano, Texas/Plano West) cleared a shot off the line in the ninth minute. The Huskies missed another chance as O’Brian White sent a shot high from the top of the 18-yard box with just over 10 minutes left in the half. Notre Dame forward Joseph Lapira (Lake Charles, La./Saint Louis Catholic) placed a shot just wide right of the net from 25 yards out with 6:26 remaining in the period. That would be the best chance for either team before the first 45 minutes expired with the score knotted at 0-0.
“With the exception of the final 10 minutes of the first half I felt that we were very much in control of the game,” stated Irish head coach Bobby Clark. “Connecticut has an excellent team with excellent players and you can’t lose your focus against them or else they will punish you.”
The defensive battle would see its only goal with 25:29 left in the match as senior defender Ryan Miller (Barrington, Ill./Barrington) sent the ball into the 18-yard box and Lapira flicked it to Thomas for the goal. That was his third goal of the season, with all of them coming in the last four games. Thomas, the reigning BIG EAST Rookie of the Week, has collected a point in four straight matches.
“It was a great run and cross by Ryan Miller on the goal,” said Clark. “Michael (Thomas) did a good job of staying composed and putting it in.”
Connecticut kept the pressure on late, yet senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill (Louisville, Ky./DeSales) and the Notre Dame defense held tight to collect the team’s 10th shutout of the season. For Cahill, it was his ninth shutout and he moved his record to 11-3-1 by making one save on the night for the Irish, who have won eight of their last nine games. This was just the second win for Notre Dame at Connecticut in seven tries. The only other victory in Storrs came in 1986.
“These last two games were a tough, but good, way to end the regular season,” commented Clark, whose team fell to West Virginia, 2-1, on Wednesday. “This was another good road test for us tonight and it’ll get us ready for the NCAA Tournament. These past two games were very similar to what the tournament will be like.”
The Irish and Blue Demons will be squaring off for the second time this season when they meet on Wednesday. Notre Dame won the first encounter, 3-0, at Alumni Field on Sept. 10.
To stay up to date on the 2006 Notre Dame men’s soccer season, please log on to und.com or call the official Notre Dame athletics hotline at (574) 631-3000.
#6 Notre Dame (12-4-2, 8-3-0 BE) 0-1 – 1
#14 Connecticut (9-5-2, 7-2-1 BE) 0-0 – 0
Shots: ND 6-6 – 12, UC 2-6 – 8
Corner Kicks: ND 3-0 – 3, UC 1-2 – 3
Saves: ND 1 (Chris Cahill 1), UC 4 (Matt Sangeloty 4)
Fouls: ND 8, UC 11
Offsides: ND 3, UC 0