Notre Dame prepares for two top-15 showdowns
Brett O'Connell | Friday, August 28, 2015
Quite simply, head coach Bobby Clark described the upcoming weekend as one of the most exciting in his recent memory.
“The two games we open up with … you couldn’t get two bigger games for the first weekend,” Clark said Thursday afternoon as his No. 4 Irish squad prepared to travel to Bloomington, Indiana.
Notre Dame opens its regular season with a pair of fixtures as they participate in the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic — the first takes place Friday night against defending Big Ten champion No. 13 Maryland while the second pits the Irish against tournament host No. 14 Indiana.
The Irish are coming off a strong showing with a 1-0 victory in their final warmup game against No. 22 Saint Louis, but Clark said the regular season is a different beast altogether.
“The start of a new year is always a challenge,” Clark said. “We’ve had a lot of success in the past few years, and we have a new team coming in, so there’s always the excitement of trying to match the pressure of sustained success.”
Clark mirrored the excitement of his players as he elaborated, claiming the start of a new academic semester carried a lot of energy on its own.
“I think it’s also just the excitement of the new season,” Clark said. “You’re back to school, this week is a very exciting week, suddenly classes start — I don’t know if the players are excited about classes starting, but I think they did miss it. They’ll see a lot of friends that they haven’t seen since last spring.”
Of course, renewed social lives will have to remain on the back burner at least for this weekend while the team faces two nationally-ranked teams away from the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium. Though Maryland is fielding 13 newcomers this coming season, Clark denied any real notion of an extended rebuild for the Big Ten soccer club.
“I don’t think there’s really a turnover,” Clark said. “There is still a whole squad of returning players — they’re seasoned veterans. A lot of the players we faced in the NCAA tournament are still there. I think they have a pretty experienced lineup — I don’t think there will be anything different [in terms of preparation].”
One particular area to watch in the coming season, both this weekend and beyond, lies in the production of the Irish offense. In recent seasons, the team has established a reputation of scoring by committee — senior midfielder and captain Patrick Hodan led the team with nine goals last year, while five other players managed three or more goals in 2014. Clark insisted individual performance and records mattered little to his squad when compared to the team’s long-term success.
“As long as the team scores, I don’t think it matters who gets the goal,” Clark said. “We don’t put too much emphasis on individuals. Patrick [Hodan] will be very happy if the team scores. I think he will certainly score some goals and have a few assists as well, but he’ll be more concerned with winning.”
Notre Dame and Maryland are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Friday at Bill Armstrong Stadium to kick off the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. The Irish and host Hoosiers will then square off at 2 p.m. Sunday to conclude the weekend’s festivities in Bloomington.