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Irish ranked No. 12 to begin ´03 campaign

Justin Schuver | Thursday, August 21, 2003

That “other” football team at Notre Dame isn’t bad this year, either.Soccer, known throughout the world as football, is one of the most international of sports games. It makes sense, then, that a school whose nickname is the Irish should compete in the sport.And Notre Dame not only competes; they’ve been competitive as well in recent years. Last year, the Irish advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing 1-0 to perennial powerhouse Indiana.This year, the Irish hope to improve even more on last season’s 12-6-3 regular season record. The team returns nine starters from a year ago and adds a highly touted freshman class.Irish coach Bobby Clark, in his third season with the Irish, will open the season with the Irish ranked 12th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/adidas preseason poll, Notre Dame’s highest preseason ranking ever.”That’s what other people see,” Clark said. “We’ve built up our stock, and now people think we can be good, but we have to keep making deposits.”Keeping with the head coach’s metaphor, midfielder Greg Martin would perhaps be the team’s accountant. Martin, a senior, will hold the duties of captain for the third straight year.”[Greg is] a special leader,” Clark said. “We’ve got a very strong senior class this year, as well, and I think that should help him.””It’s obviously a great honor,” Martin said. “It’s a great group of guys. I hope to bring vision and organization to this team both on and off the field.”In addition to Martin and the six other seniors, junior goalkeeper Chris Sawyer will also play an important role on the team. Sawyer was named the Big East preseason goalkeeper of the year.Last year, Sawyer started 16 of the 21 games in goal for the Irish, and collected a 0.99 goals against average and .754 save percentage, allowing 16 goals and making 49 saves.Forward Justin Detter and midfielder Jack Stewart also earned preseason all-Big East honors. Detter was the third leading scorer on last year’s team, with 19 points (six goals and seven assists).The Irish lost last season’s scoring leader Erich Braun to graduation, and it will be up to Detter and the other Irish offensive players to help make up for the loss. Braun tallied 12 goals and three assists last year, for a total of 27 points.”It’s always tough when you lose good players,” Clark said.The Irish open the season Saturday with an exhibition match against No.11 Saint Louis and then begin regular season play at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind., on Aug. 29 against Alabama-Birmingham and Aug. 30 against No.17 California.The regular-season home opener will be against Big East rival and fifth-ranked Saint John’s, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. In their first three games of the regular season, the Irish will face two ranked teams and one that just missed being ranked.”You always want to find the best teams you can play,” Clark said.Martin and the other seniors hope that the third year is the charm for Clark, who took Dartmouth and Stanford to the NCAA Tournament earlier in his coaching career.”I think we want to win it more for [Clark] than for ourselves,” Martin said. “We seniors know it’s our last chance to win it for him.”