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Irish to play twice in weekend tournament

Pat Leonard | Friday, September 12, 2003

Notre Dame will host the second annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament this weekend at Alumni Field.The Irish welcome three visiting teams and play two games over the course of the weekend. Akron and Indiana, two Midwestern powerhouses, are making the trip, while west coast representative Fresno St. will travel the farthest distance.The tournament is played in honor of former Irish head coach Mike Berticelli, who coached the team from 1990-1999 and had a 104-80-19 record at Notre Dame. He advanced to the NCAA championship three times and won three conference championships. He died of a heart attack in January of 2001.”He was a really special person,” coach Bobby Clark said of the former coach, and his friend. “He was a guy who affected a lot of people over the country. He was one of the leading figures for the NSCAA, one of leading soccer bodies. He touched a lot of people.”The Irish will play in Berticelli’s honor.No. 14 Indiana (1-1-2) and Akron (2-1-0) open the tournament Friday night before No. 16 Notre Dame meets Fresno State. The Bulldogs (0-2) and Irish (1-1-1) will play for the first time in their program’s respective histories. Fresno State plays in the competitive Pac-10 conference and lost just 1-0 to No. 6 Santa Clara last week, playing 50 minutes with 10 men on the field.”When I coached at Stanford, I saw [Fresno State], and they are well coached,” Clark said. “They are very good technically, and they will be a challenge.”Sunday, Fresno State plays its second consecutive match with an early morning 11 a.m. start versus Indiana. Notre Dame and Akron will then conclude the tournament.Akron is a familiar face to Notre Dame. The Irish met the Zips twice last year, winning both games including a 3-1 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament.The No. 16 Notre Dame and No. 14 Indiana squads are the only two ranked teams in the tournament. They are also the only teams who will not meet head-to-head this weekend. The Hoosiers will return Thursday, September 18, to renew a rivalry heated by a 1-0 defeat of the Irish in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.Notre Dame is looking to rebound from a 3-0 loss in its Big East opener to No. 13 St. John’s. The Red Storm capitalized on costly Irish turnovers and shutout the Irish in front of a crowd of 1,700 at Alumni field.The Berticelli Tournament will provide Notre Dame with an opportunity to go back above .500. Right now, the Irish hold a victory over California, a tie with Alabama-Birmingham and a loss to in-conference Saint John’s.It is also an opportunity to pay respect to a man and coach who, according to the steady stream of compliments from Clark, was nothing but class and joy.”Anytime you were in his company you seemed to smile a little bit more and laugh a little bit more,” Clark said. “I remember coming up here coaching a clinic for him. You always felt a little bit better. On top of that, he was a very good soccer coach.”