Nov. 16, 2007
STORRS, Conn. - Notre Dame captured a 2-1 win over DePaul in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Men's Soccer Championship at a cold and windy Morrone Stadium on Friday evening. The Fighting Irish used goals from Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) and Joseph Lapira (Lake Charles, La./Saint Louis Catholic) to advance to the BIG EAST title game for the third time in school history. Notre Dame will face Connecticut at 12 noon (ET) on Sunday in Storrs, Conn.
Notre Dame (12-3-5) produced an early goal as freshman Steven Perry (Edmond, Okla./Bishop McGuinness) played the ball to Thomas from the right side and he centered up his shot from inside the 18-yard box and put the ball into the back of the net in the fifth minute of play. The sophomore midfielder nearly netted a second goal with 33:07 remaining in the first half as a point-blank header was saved.
Notre Dame had two good looks with just under 15 minutes left in the opening stanza. The first attempt was a Jack Traynor (St. Charles, Mo./Francis Howell North) shot from 12 yards out that a Blue Demon defender was able to put a leg on for the block. The rebound went to Lapira and he sent the shot just wide to the left. That preceded a three-shot flurry from the Irish that went to no avail.
DePaul (12-7-0) threatened late in the first half, yet Notre Dame goalkeeper Chris Cahill (Louisville, Ky./DeSales) shut the door on the opportunities as he collected three saves in the half and five for the game. The Irish, who were playing into a stiff wind in the opening 45 minutes, held a 7-6 shot advantage in the first half. Notre Dame led 1-0 at the intermission.
"We have a lot of experience playing into the wind," said Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark. "We handled the game well and got the ball down. We put some very good opportunities together but could never put them away."
The first good look for the Irish in the second half came with 30:48 remaining as a Lapira cross was headed just wide by Alex Yoshinaga (San Diego, Calif./Granite Hills). DePaul's first major threat came with 25:42 left in the second period as a Steffen Vroom shot hit the crossbar after being chipped over Cahill. The rebound went right to Cahill, who cleared the ball away.
After surviving that scare, Notre Dame came up with its second score as a Yoshinaga shot was saved by Blue Demon goalkeeper Brian Visser and Lapira gathered in the rebound and sent home his team-leading seventh goal of the season in the 68th minute. Lapira, a unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection, has a team-best 22 points.
The Blue Demons got on the board in the 74th minute as an Erich Reichmann low blast found the left side of the net from 40-yards away. That snapped a scoreless streak from Cahill which had reached just over 300 minutes.
Notre Dame nearly regained its two-goal advantage as DePaul needed a diving save from Visser on a Yoshinaga shot with 8:09 left in regulation. Neither team could produce anything the rest of the way as the Irish came away with the victory.
"We were kind of cruising when it was 2-0 but we let them get back into it," added Clark. "It looked like we were going to get our third goal but we never did. Full marks to DePaul for never giving up, they kept the game exciting."
The Irish out shot the Blue Demons 15-10, while also holding a 2-1 edge in corner kicks. Visser, the 2007 BIG EAST goalkeeper of the year, made five saves on the night.
No. 11 Notre Dame is the second seed out of the BIG EAST Blue Division, while No. 19 DePaul was the top seed from the Red Division. Second-ranked Connecticut is the top seed from the Blue Division. Notre Dame has won its fist two trips to the conference championship match. Those occurred in 1996 and 2003.
To stay up to date on the Notre Dame men's soccer team, log onto und.com or call the official Notre Dame athletics hotline at (574) 631-3000.
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Shots: ND 7-8 - 15, DP 6-4 - 10