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Men’s Soccer: ND to tackle UCLA, Cal

Molly Sammon | Friday, September 3, 2010

No. 18 Notre Dame will start its regular season Friday facing one of the toughest teams on their 2010 schedule and a California powerhouse — No. 5 UCLA.

“They’re a very competitive soccer program,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “They‘re always one of the top teams on the west coast, always have the top players, and have a young team.”

The Irish will travel to Bloomington, Ind., for the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic at Indiana University’s Armstrong Stadium where they will meet up with the Bruins for the fifth time in program history. The Irish beat the Bruins once before, a 2-1 overtime victory in their most recent match in 2007.

Though Clark does not have much experience coaching against the Bruins, he is certainly quite familiar with their style of play, as his former coaching job at Pac-10 rival Stanford led to many meetings between Clark and UCLA.

“I know it’ll be a good time,” Clark said. “During my five years at Stanford, we played them on a yearly basis, and they always produce very good teams.”

Notre Dame’s 3-0 record in the exhibition season gives them a good boost of confidence heading into a demanding regular season.

“We haven’t spent much time dwelling on UCLA, but just sharpening up our own performance and building up the little momentum we’ve gotten through the preseason,” Clark said.

Three of the five starting Irish defenders are new to the pitch, and Clark has been stressing the importance of communication and unity on the field as they establish a new dynamic on the field.

“These players have evolved and have started playing together quite nicely,” he said. “The off-season trip was a good opportunity for getting them familiar with each other, and I think we’re getting there. This could be a very exciting group to work with over the years.”

Offensively, freshman Harry Shipp is quickly building a good reputation on the field. Shipp has already raked in two assists and a goal in the preseason.

“Shipp fits in well, he’s very technical,” Clark said. “He handles the ball very well, he’s got tremendous control in tight spaces and he makes good decisions.”

The Irish are also making adjustments to deal with the setback of team captain Phil Tuttle injury while he recuperates.

“[Tuttle] will still be our captain on the sidelines, but I’m comfortable with the group of seniors we have leading on the field,” Clark said.

The UCLA game marks the first of 17 regular season games. Notre Dame will continue its transition into the regular season Sunday when it faces California Sunday at Alumni Stadium for the first home game of the year.

“Every game in our schedule is really important, and we’re hoping we can get off to a good start,” Clark said. “When it comes to tournament time, you really want some good wins against good teams, and this will give us that opportunity.”