MEN’S SOCCER: Stayin’ alive
Joe Meixell | Friday, November 18, 2005
The recent turn in the weather does not bother Bobby Clark.
“It’s great to think that we’re playing still when there is snow on the ground,” the Irish head coach said. “Think about all the other 152 teams that aren’t lucky enough to play in the snow now. They’re out. Their seasons are over.
“When you are in the tournament, you are usually playing in bad weather. And that’s great because that means you are in the tournament.”
Notre Dame (10-7-3, 6-4-1) opens the NCAA tournament against Western Illinois tonight at Alumni Field at 5 p.m. Clark, in his fifth season at the helm for the Irish, has led the team to the tournament every year since coming to South Bend.
Western Illinois (6-9-4) is one of only two squads (Stetson is the other) in the 48-team tournament with a losing record. The Leathernecks qualified for the tournament by winning the Mid-Continent Conference tournament. Western Illinois edged Oakland 4-3 in overtime in the conference championship match.
Despite the poor record, Clark expects a stiff challenge from the Leathernecks.
“They must be the best 6-9 team in the country,” Clark said. “I spoke to several coaches that have played them. I’ve heard they are a very good team with some very good players.”
Clark said that the momentum Western Illinois built up in its conference tournament makes the Leathernecks a very dangerous team.
“Early in the season they lost some close games,” the coach said. “They’re going to come in very confident.”
The Leathernecks are in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season, after capturing the Mid-Continent Conference title in 2004.
Notre Dame is coming off an up-and-down regular season. The Irish finished the regular season outside of the NCAA top 25 for the first time in Clark’s tenure.
However, Clark attributes Notre Dame’s inconsistencies to a challenging schedule. A record seven Big East teams made the NCAA tournament. The Irish also played several top out of conference teams, including Indiana. The Hoosiers, who beat the Irish 3-0 in Bloomington Oct. 26, will host the winner of Friday’s game on Tuesday in the second round.
The Irish have the benefit of hosting a first round game, but Clark hopes his players do not put too much stock in their home field advantage.
“The home field is always an advantage, but it’s what we do on the home field that’s going to be more important,” Clark said. “At the end of the day, the home field doesn’t win it for you. We’ve got to take care of that. The players themselves have got to take care of that.”
Clark is optimistic, however, because of the improvement he has seen from his team over the season. The coach thinks the Irish have the talent to make a run in the tournament.
“This team has gotten better every week,” Clark said. “We’re now looking as good as any team that I’ve ever coached at Notre Dame.
“This team is looking very good.”
u Junior tri-captain Greg Dalby was named one of 15 semifinalists Tuesday for the prestigious Hermann Trophy. The award is given each year to the top player in Division I soccer.
Dalby, who has played as a midfielder and defender for the Irish in 2005, is only the third player in program history to be named a semifinalist. Last season, defenders Kevin Goldthwaite and Jack Stewart both made the semifinalist list for the trophy.
u For those wanting to escape the chilly walk to this afternoon’s game, busses will be shuttling students in a loop from Library Circle, the Grotto and McKenna Hall to Alumni Field between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.