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MEN’S SOCCER: Irish stars lead skilled team

Kate Gales | Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Irish have concerns. They must recoup from the loss of a sterling defense, but Notre Dame also has veterans who – as they showed on Sunday – can lead the team.

Leading the pack are Greg Dalby and Ian Etherington, two of the men’s soccer team’s most visible players. Both were named preseason All-Big East players, with Dalby garnering an additional nod as a second-team preseason All-American.

But both players are quick to redirect attention from themselves to the team, from focus on preseason awards to the team’s goals for the season.

“I think we showed tonight we have a great team,” Dalby said after Sunday’s preseason exhibition match against No. 6 New Mexico, which ended in a 1-1 tie. “It just shows that there’s lots to be excited about this year.”

If Dalby won’t say it, his accomplishments speak for themselves. An integral part of the team’s excitement for the year is fueled by Dalby’s play. One of three unanimous picks to the preseason team and a returning Second Team All-Big East player, Dalby honed his skills in the off-season, captaining the national Under-20 team in international play.

Hearts stopped at Alumni Field on Sunday when the defensive center midfielder went down with an injury, although preliminary X-rays showed no damage.

“What he contributes, he contributes in so many other ways,” coach Bobby Clark said. “He’s a class kid, he’s just such a mature leader … hopefully he’s going to be fit and [losing time due to injury is] not a question, hopefully we get him as a player and as a leader.”

The team views Dalby as a leader and voted him one of their three captains for the coming season.

“I think I’m a leader on the team that I lead by example, bringing experience to the table – I’m a simple player,” he said.

In addition, he values the importance of attitude and the way the team’s attitude reflects his own.

Etherington was named to the third team All-Big East after the 2004 Irish campaign, which culminated in the regular-season conference championship. Although the offense struggled at times, he tied for the honor of team-points leader with eleven, including a team-high five assists.

“My attitude is I only have two more years left and I’m going to take every ounce of it,” Etherington said. “My attitude goes along with our teams attitude, we’re going to work hard every practice, we go there and we’re going to work our butts off… we’re going to try our best in every game, in every practice and we’re going to try to be a more tougher team this year.”

The team-first attitude is reflected in Etherington’s take on his preseason honors.

“It was a big accomplishment this year for me, I thought to get announced as First Team Big East,” he said. “I gotta give my teammates credit, I wouldn’t be there if my team didn’t do well. If your team does well other players get rewarded for that.”

Despite Dalby leaving Sunday’s game on crutches and the uncertainty that lies ahead, the Irish are optimistic with their chances for this season, and no one knows that better than their preseason honorees.