ND to host Billikens in regular season opener
Ryan Kolakowski | Friday, August 24, 2018
The Chad Riley era is set to kickoff at Notre Dame Friday night as the Irish men’s soccer team takes on the Billikens of Saint Louis University.
Riley, who played for the Irish as an undergraduate student-athlete from 2000-2003, took over head coaching duties this January. The Friday night matchup against Saint Louis will be coach Riley’s first official game as the Notre Dame head coach. Riley will begin his term as the sixth coach in program history when the two Catholic universities clash tonight.
Riley brings a history of success with him in his return to South Bend. During his time as an assistant coach with the Irish between 2006 and 2011, Riley helped lead Notre Dame to a 71-37-21 record, highlighted by five NCAA championship tournament appearances and two NCAA quarterfinals appearances. Riley went on to compile even more success at Dartmouth College, leading his teams to a 51-26-14 mark while serving as the head coach for the last five seasons. Riley said that he believes his success at Dartmouth can translate to Notre Dame.
“I think a lot of things are universal as far as, you know, what a good team feels like,” Riley said. “Dartmouth is obviously a very different institution than Notre Dame, but at the same time I think two components are the same. People go there because they love it … and it has a very passionate alum base, similar to ours.”
The Billikens defeated Washington University in St. Louis 4-1 on Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Irish are coming off a 3-1 victory over Valparaiso University in their latest exhibition match Monday night. The United Soccer Coaches preseason poll ranked the Irish at No. 17 to start the year.
Last season, the Irish went 11-7-2, racking up wins against ranked teams including North Carolina, Michigan and Clemson. Notre Dame is returning seven starters from the 2017 squad that was eliminated by Wisconsin in the round of 32 at the NCAA tournament. The Billikens finished with a record of 7-9-1, including a 4-4 mark in Atlantic 10 Conference play.
The Friday night matchup marks the 13th contest between Notre Dame and Saint Louis. The Billikens have dominated the series thus far, leading the Irish 8-3-1 in 11 meetings. The last three matchups between the teams have been particularly tight, with each game going to double overtime. Notre Dame leads the series 2-1-0 when playing at home, and the 2018 Irish squad will look to improve that mark in Alumni stadium tonight.
The Irish have dominated season openers in their program’s history, boasting a 25-9-7 record in such games. In their last seven season openers, the Irish hold an unbeaten record of 4-0-3, outscoring their opponents 10-2 in those contests.
This season, the Irish are scheduled to play 11 teams that are currently ranked in the top 25 of the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, but Riley is prepared to lead his team through the daunting season.
“There’s a lot of pressure on every game, so you have to build a structure and a team that can thrive in those moments,” Riley said.
The pressure will be on for the first time when Notre Dame kicks off against Saint Louis at 7 p.m. on Friday night.