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Men’s Soccer

Bens: Irish tri-captains carry team’s title hopes

| Thursday, August 24, 2017

If everything falls into place, the Irish can have a promising upcoming season.

Irish senior forward Jon Gallagher tracks down the ball during Notre Dame’s 5-0 victory over the Mexico U-18s on April 28 at Alumni Stadium. Gallagher led the team in goals and assists last season.Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Irish senior forward Jon Gallagher tracks down the ball during Notre Dame’s 5-0 victory over the Mexico U-18s on April 28 at Alumni Stadium. Gallagher led the team in goals and assists last season.

Last year, the team started well en route to being ranked number one in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division 1 National Top 25 poll by early September. As the season progressed, the team lost their winning streak and slid down the rankings. After beating Duke in first round of the ACC tournament, the Irish fell to Wake Forest. In the NCAA tournament, No. 13 seed Notre Dame got a bye in the first round and then, after squeaking past Loyola 1-0, lost to Louisville 3-1 in the third round. Despite the pitfalls, the team fought until the end and will be motivated to climb higher in the ranks this year.

Notre Dame’s successful season last year resulted from the seniors’ notable performance and leadership on and off the field. Similar to any other good team, they will have done their homework to replace graduated players with just as strong current players to fill the holes.

Despite losing a handful of players, senior forward Jon Gallagher, graduate student defender Matt Hawbroski and goalkeeper graduate student Chris Hubbard will serve as excellent tri-captains for the No. 10 Irish this season. Being Hawbrowski’s second year as a captain, his experience will certainly help the team jump right into their tough season.

After receiving many accolades last year, such as 2016 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Gallagher continues his uphill climb as he was added to the 2017 Missouri Athletic Club Herman Trophy Watch List, a trophy presented to the best men’s and women’s collegiate soccer players in the country each season.

Kicking off the preseason, Notre Dame had a 2-0 win over Omaha, a 4-1 win over Drake, and a 3-0 win over Valparaiso. Although the three wins in the exhibition games do not count towards their record, the young players gained confidence while the older players were thrown back into their element. As the Irish carry their momentum into the official 2017 season, they will take it game by game to improve last year’s record within their difficult schedule.

The Irish have experience and knowledge, now they have to battle through arguably the top soccer conference. Previously reaching the NCAA championship Round of 16, it will be no surprise for Notre Dame to return to the round of 16 and go even further.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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