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Irish attempt to live up to preseason rankings

Pat Leonard | Friday, August 29, 2003

Bobby Clark was pleased with his team’s 1-0-1 record in preseason play, but he stayed realistic. He knew the games did not matter.

Beginning Friday, the games will matter.

Notre Dame, ranked No. 3, opens its regular season schedule on the road this year with a pair of non-conference matches in Bloomington, Ind. this weekend. The Irish will play No. 20 Alabama-Birmingham on Friday and No. 11 California on Saturday in the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic at Armstrong Stadium. Notre Dame has never played either team.

Still, there is something familiar about the weekend’s games. The Irish will open their season playing on the same field they ended on last season in a 1-0 loss to Indiana University in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

No mind games should distract the experienced Irish, who return nine starters from a 12-6-3 2002 team that finished ranked 20th in Soccer America. Notre Dame’s No. 3 ranking in the magazine and its No. 12 NSCAA ranking are both highs in program history.

Third-year captain Greg Martin had 13 points (six goals, one assist) last season and is largely responsible for the team’s chemistry. His belief in creating a winning – and maybe even dominating – tradition in the Notre Dame soccer program has rubbed off on the entire team.

During the preseason, the upperclassmen set the pace and got the Irish on the board. Forward Justin Detter (19 points last season) had a goal and an assist against St. Louis in a 2-0 victory. Devon Prescod scored a goal at St. Louis and one in a 1-1 tie with Michigan at Alumni Field Monday night. Martin and junior midfielder Jack Stewart assisted on the goal.

Goalie Chris Sawyer made four saves against Michigan and two in the St. Louis shutout, suggesting defensive dominance for the Irish.

None of the preseason stats translate directly to the regular season, but Martin has the team functioning as one unit.

That unit will not catch abreak in its schedule this year, which is evident in the Irish opening with two ranked opponents. According to Martin and the attitude of the rest of the team, however, they don’t really need one.

They don’t want one. The games start at 5 p.m.