Oct. 11, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The No. 8/10 Notre Dame men’s soccer team continued its hot play by downing Michigan State 3-0 in non-conference play at a cold, rainy and windy Alumni Field on Wednesday evening. Tallying goals for the Irish, who have won six straight games, was Matt Besler (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West), Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) and Joseph Lapira (Lake Charles, La./Saint Louis Catholic). Senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill (Louisville, Ky./DeSales) earned his seventh shutout of the season as Notre Dame improves to 10-3-2. Michigan State falls to 6-5-2 in the loss.
Notre Dame came out strong and peppered the Spartan goal with several early shots to no avail, while Michigan State could only muster a few distant blasts in the opening stages of the first half. The Irish notched their first goal in the 22nd minute as a Nate Norman (Rochester, Mich./Rochester Adams) corner kick was directed into the back of the net by Besler for his second tally of the season. Norman has a team-high five assists.
The wind and rain played havoc with both teams during stretches of the first half, but the Irish nearly connected on a couple more opportunities before the first 45 minutes had elapsed. Sophomores Bright Dike (Edmond, Okla./Edmond North) and Cory Rellas (Plano, Texas/Plano West) both had nice looks in the final 10 minutes that could not find the net. Notre Dame would lead 1-0 at the half.
“This was an excellent showing for us tonight,” said Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark. “I thought we played very well all the way around. We had a spell in the first half where they kind of crept in, but we held them off and it was nice to get the second goal. We are now 3-0 against the Big Ten this season and that is big because they are our Midwest rivals.”
The Fighting Irish offense took charge from the outset of the second half. Notre Dame continued pounding shots on the Spartan defense and the effort paid off as the freshman Thomas gathered the ball as action was taking place in front of the goal and sent it in to make it 2-0 in the 72nd minute. The goal, which was assisted by Lapira, was the first of Thomas’ young career.
Lapira, who came out early in the first half but returned to start the second stanza, upped his scoring streak to six straight games with a goal in the 74th minute. The junior forward took the ball on a breakaway, passed a Spartan defender and placed a shot into the right side of the net for his nation-leading 18th goal of the season. His 39 points also rank first among NCAA Division I men’s soccer players. Lapira did see his streak of five straight two-goal games come to an end.
Notre Dame dominated the statistics once again. The Irish out-shot Michigan State 23-6 and held a 10-2 advantage in corner kicks. Cahill made three saves on the night to up his record to 9-2-1. Spartan goalkeeper Jason Tillman, who had to leave late in the second half due to an injury, collected the loss, while making five saves.
The six straight wins are the most for the Fighting Irish since a six-game win streak during the 2004 campaign. Notre Dame is unbeaten in its last seven contests, the longest such stretch since 2003 when the Irish captured eight straight wins.
The Fighting Irish will wrap up the home portion of its 2006 regular season schedule with a crucial BIG EAST Blue Division showdown with Providence on Saturday (Oct. 14) at 7:00 p.m. The Friars and Irish are currently tied for second in the division, behind West Virginia and Connecticut. Notre Dame will take on both the Mountaineers and Huskies next week.
“These next three games are huge for us,” stated Clark. “You want to win the league. Winning the conference tournament is nice, but you really want to win the league and these three games will have a lot to say on who wins. Each one takes on importance, but you still have to take one at a time. Providence had a nice win over (No. 14) Brown last night and they will be tough to beat here on Saturday.”
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.
Michigan State (6-5-2) 0 0 – 0
#8/10 Notre Dame (10-3-2) 1 2 – 3
Shots: MSU 3-3 – 6, ND 12-11 – 23
Corner Kicks: MSU 1-1 – 2, ND 4-6 – 10
Saves: MSU 6 (Jason Tillman 5, Team 1), ND 3 (Chris Cahill 3)
Fouls: MSU 11, ND 8
Offsides: MSU 0, ND 2