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Men’s Soccer: Irish ready for Berticelli Memorial

Dan Murphy | Friday, September 7, 2007

No. 9 Notre Dame opens up its home schedule tonight against Rhode Island at 7:30 in the sixth annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament.

The tournament began in 2002 in memory of the former Irish coach who died two years earlier of a heart attack at the age of 48. Berticelli, widely respected in soccer circles, coached Notre Dame for 10 seasons.

Current head coach Bobby Clark, who worked clinics with Berticelli, recalled a time when Berticelli sent Clark’s son Jamie – now assistant coach – an Irish soccer jersey in the mail after the two had a conversation about their families.

“That was just the kind of guy Bert was,” Clark said. “I’m sure he’ll be looking down on us and will us to play well this weekend.”

Rhode Island brings a 1-1 record to South Bend after beating Providence 2-0 earlier in the week. The Rams lost their season opener to Harvard on Sept. 1. They return 10 starters from a team that fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Rhode Island coach John O’Connor knows the Irish well after coming to Notre Dame to work at summer camps with Clark and several members of coaching staff. O’Connor was an assistant under Clark for five years at Dartmouth, and the pair won two Ivy League titles during their time.

“I think I know the way his team will play,” Clark said. “But the downside is he knows what I will do too.”

After facing Rhode Island, the Irish will take on Northern Illinois Sunday. Northern Illinois coach Steve Simmons has also spent some time coach at the Notre Dame clinics.

The Huskies (1-0-1) started their season by tying Bucknell then downed Colgate 2-1 in overtime. Senior forward Marcus McCarty was selected for the MAC all-conference team and all tournament team in 2006 and will be a threat for Northern Illinois all year.

“These will be some good games,” Clark said. “Both teams are just below the top tier level, which means they are hungry.”

The Irish will get a chance to scout the Huskies Friday night when Northern Illinois takes on No. 7 Indiana to open the tournament at 5 p.m. This is the second weekend in a row that Notre Dame and the Hoosiers are competing in the same tournament, but the in-state rivals will not go head-to-head until late October.

In the meantime, the Irish will try to bounce back from a rollercoaster weekend which included taking down No. 1 UCLA before losing 3-0 to No. 6 Maryland.

Clark said that the team learned from their loss to the Terps and things that it will help them in the future.

“It will either be a stumbling block or a stepping stone,” he said. “I think we will use it as a stepping stone.”