Men’s Soccer: Team eyes postseason run
Michael Blasco | Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Irish have reached the NCAA Tournament a program-record eight consecutive years, but the team has just two quarterfinals appearances to show for their efforts. This year, Notre Dame has set the bar a little higher – an NCAA championship.
The No. 12 Irish, who have claimed Big East regular season titles in each of the last three years, were bounced from the NCAA tournament in the second round in 2008 after consecutive quarterfinals appearances in 2006 and 2007. Ninth-year Irish coach Bobby Clark, while not belittling his team’s impressive streak of Tournament appearances, said he thinks this year’s squad is capable of more.
“It’s obviously nice to go to the Tournament, but it would nice to go further,” Clark said. “I’m not hiding that, and the boys feel the same way. It’s obviously a goal of ours to make it to the Final Four, but why not a National Championship? This group is more than capable of it.”
Notre Dame looked sharp in an exhibition win over No. 9 Northwestern Monday, but the Irish have a long, difficult season ahead of them. After Tuesday’s season opener against Michigan, Notre Dame travels to Bloomington, Ind. to take on No. 3 Wake Forest and No. 5 Saint John’s at the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.
“We play a tough schedule,” Clark said. “Last year we played the third-toughest schedule, and this year we’ll be right there again. We play a really good schedule, but that’s what you want to do. You want that to prepare you for the [NCAA Tournament].”
In spite of all the high hopes for the Irish season, Clark has made it clear that his team’s first concern is making it to the NCAA Tournament.
“You don’t get there because of long service. You get there because you earn it,” Clark said. “It’s eight in a row, but you’re not going to get there just because it’s [the ninth season]. Getting there is a good season. A great season, you have to get to the Final Four.”
Adding to the hype for Notre Dame is one of the nation’s strongest freshman classes. Clark put together a solid recruiting effort that has made the Irish freshmen the envy of the NCAA, but he’s not counting on his young players just yet.
“Our success is going to hinge around the sophomores, the juniors, and seniors,” Clark said. “They’re going to make the team. We may get a little spice, a little sugar, from the freshmen, but anything from them is a bonus.”
Notre Dame will open its regular season against Michigan Tuesday with the Irish’s final game at Old Alumni Stadium. The New Alumni Stadium will host its first match on Sept. 11 when Notre Dame takes on Seattle.