Bens: returners will be key to navigating tough schedule for the Irish
Meagan Bens | Wednesday, August 29, 2018
With a new head coach, Chad Riley, and having 22 veterans on the roster, Notre Dame’s 2018 season is poised to be just as successful as its 2017 campaign.
After head coach Bobby Clark’s retirement, closing his career with 31 successful seasons — 17 at Notre Dame — and 369 victories, there were big shoes to fill. A former Irish player under Clark from 2001 to 2003 and even a former coach at Dartmouth like the legend himself, Notre Dame couldn’t have landed a better fit in Clark’s replacement. Riley left Dartmouth with a 51-26-14 record after five seasons and captured Ivy League titles during the last four years.
Building on the legacy of Clark, Riley will lead a team full of veterans. During their last exhibition match against Valparaiso, senior Ian Aschieris sent a cross to assist senior Sean MacLeod’s goal. Another senior, Felicien Dumas, and Aschieris added two more goals to the board. Riley was also impressed with senior Thomas Ueland’s performance which gave the team a boost during the second half.
Despite the tie to Saint Louis during the season opener, senior Patrick Berneski found the end of Dumas’ free kick to lead the Irish. Not only did the senior finish the only goal during the match, he led the back line in preventing the Bilikens’ goal-scoring chances. During the games so far, and the ones to come, the seniors will continue to be the driving force.
The combination of the new coach and veterans sets up a promising 2018 season. Even though the Irish lost one of their star players, Jon Gallagher, the seniors continue to rise to the occasion. They have the ability to match the previous 11-7-2 season, even though they face one of the strongest schedules in NCAA Division I soccer.
Teams such as Dartmouth, Virginia, Michigan State, Louisville, Duke, Michigan and Virginia Tech all battled in the 2017 NCAA championship and fill the 2018 schedule. Every game will be an uphill battle according to Clark and now Riley, but the seniors have the energy to lift the team during challenging spells.
Ranked No. 17 in the preseason, the Irish will not disappoint.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.