The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND Men’s Soccer: Irish host season’s first game

Eric Retter | Friday, August 25, 2006

The Sweet 16 is in the past, and Notre Dame is firmly grounded in the present.

Tonight, the Irish kick off the fifth annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament, and the team is focused on this season, hoping that the offseason work pays off into an even deeper tournament run.

The team will play UAB at 7:30 p.m. tonight before facing No. 8 Creighton at 2 p.m. Sunday. No. 12 Indiana will also compete in the tournament.

Irish head coach Bobby Clark is pleased the team is being challenged right away.

“It takes things up a little bit from our exhibition games and gives us a feeling of where we are and what we’ve got to do,” he said.

“It’s also very important this early stage of the season to see where the team is both individually and collectively.”

Notre Dame returns nine of 11 starters from last year’s team, but Clark cautioned that the team must still perform on game days to be successful.

“As I always say to a team, just because they’re a year older doesn’t mean they’re a year better,” he said. “I do believe we have become quite a lot better because we’ve been working very hard, [and] we worked very hard the winter and spring.”

The Irish are led this season by senior captain and midfielder Greg Dalby and senior midfielder Ian Etherington, both of whom were named to the preseason All-Big East team. Dalby, who has started every game since entering Notre Dame as a freshman, was also named to the College Soccer News preseason All-America first team and to the 25-man list of players eligible to receive the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, presented annually to the top men’s soccer player in the country.

“He needs to do exactly what he did last year: be a good role model on the field and off the field as he did last year,” Clark said. “We don’t need anything more special [out of him].”

Dalby should not feel pressure as the team’s co-captain and star, Clark said.

Dalby and Etherington will be joined by junior Joe Lapira, who led the Irish last season with seven goals and five assists, as well as by senior defenseman Ryan Miller and senior forward Justin McGeeney.

“When you’ve got a good senior group, they know that this is their last hurrah,” Clark said. “They’ve learned not to let the pressure get to them, but they’re usually very aware of what they want to do and this is there last chance to do it.”

The Irish also welcome a group of talented freshmen. Forward/midfielder Justin Morrow and Midfielder/defender Michael Thomas were both named to the College Soccer News list of “100 Freshmen to Watch,” while forwards Tamba Samba and Dave Donohue have been impressive in Notre Dame’s two preseason games. Samba scored the only goal in Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Drake.

“All four boys did well [in the preseason],” Clark said. “Obviously there’s a strong group to break in in front of, but they give you that nice depth. They’re usually very excited and that can bring a special dynamic to the team.”

Perhaps the biggest question mark for the Irish entering the season will be at goalkeeper, where senior Chris Cahill and sophomore Andrew Quinn have split time in each of the team’s preseason games. Clark, however, sees the team’s goalkeeper situation as a positive rather than a negative.

“When you’re in a position where there’s two very good goalkeepers, we could even be in a position where we could share the position a little bit more,” he said. “It’s a very nice position to have. No matter which one plays, I think we’ll be fine. I think they both deserve some time so I think we’ll try and make that happen.”