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Men’s Soccer

Irish success due in large part to Clark’s proven record of excellence

| Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A truth universally acknowledged is that behind every great team there is a great coach, and Notre Dame certainly has one in head coach Bobby Clark.

Clark is entering his 16th season at the helm of the men’s soccer program — a program that has dramatically improved under his tenure. Since leaving a strong Stanford program and coming to Notre Dame in 2001, Clark has compiled 15 straight winning seasons and a 195-79-51 overall mark. Clark has led his teams to the NCAA Tournament 14 times in his 15 years here at Notre Dame, including leading the Irish to a national championship in 2013. The 2016 edition of the team has similar national title aspirations, but Clark warned not to crown them champions of anything yet.

“[This team] has the potential to be one of these teams,” Clark said. “We’re hopeful, but then again every team in the country is hopeful at this moment in time, so we don’t want to read too much into it. We’ve got to keep working. We’ve got a lot of work to do … but if we add a little bit on each week, then by the end of the season we’ll be in good shape.”

Irish graduate student Michael Shipp battles a defender for the ball during Notre Dame's 1-1 tie against Valparaiso on Aug. 22 at Alumni Stadium.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish graduate student Michael Shipp battles a defender for the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-1 tie against Valparaiso on Aug. 22 at Alumni Stadium.

Still, evidenced by their winning of the Mike Berticelli Tournament this past weekend, the Irish (2-0) figure to be ACC and national title contenders largely due to their leadership and experience, highlighted by their three upperclassmen captains. Senior defender Matt Habrowski and graduate student Michael Shipp join graduate student midfielder Evan Panken to form the core of the Irish leadership on the field, and Clark noted how they’re exactly the right people for the job.

“It’s quite amazing that every year that I’ve been here, the team has picked the same leaders that I would’ve picked,” Clark said. “I think [this year’s captains] are three very strong leaders. They’re terrific students, they’re terrific soccer players. They’re good people, good role models for all the younger boys coming through our program, both on and off the field.”

During his tenure in South Bend, Clark has coached two student-athletes to the NSCAA Scholar-Athlete of the year — Matt Besler in 2008 and Harrison Shipp in 2013. Shipp and 2016 alumnus Patrick Hodan also received CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year honors.

Yet, the majority of the leadership and instruction still lies with the coaching staff, a staff Clark said he carefully constructed and has a lot of fun with.

“The first thing I do is I surround myself with good people — that’s the most important thing,” Clark said. “We’ve got a great staff — [BJ] Craig our associate head coach, [assistant coach Michael] Casper, and then [Vern] Gingrich who does a fantastic job as a volunteer coach with the goalkeepers. We all love the game and we’re all teachers. … You have a group of guys who are passionate about what they’re trying to learn, so we all look at ourselves as teachers first.”

Clark said becoming head coach for the Notre Dame men’s soccer team has been very special, and he always tries to represent the University the best he can. He has been a mainstay throughout his time here as head coach, evidenced by his reception of an honorary monogram from the Notre Dame Monogram Club in June of 2011 to honor his commitment and dedication to the program.

“Notre Dame has a soul — it’s hard to put your finger on what a soul is, but it’s just a feeling you get,” Clark said. “I don’t think anyone ever gets anything right, but we try to do the right thing here, and that’s the most important thing.”

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a senior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. In addition to formerly serving as Sports Editor at The Observer, Joe is a RA in Stanford Hall and a past champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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