Kolakowski: Riley is continuing a culture of success
Ryan Kolakowski | Friday, September 14, 2018
Prior to the start of the season, the Notre Dame men’s soccer team was slated to take on 11 opponents who were ranked in the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll. Six of those 11 teams were ranked in the top seven of the preseason poll.
The schedule looked daunting, especially for a new head coach entering his first year with the program. Now, after 5 matches, the Irish are 3-1-1, and Chad Riley appears to be the right man to lead Notre Dame through this gauntlet of a schedule.
After the season-opening tie against Saint Louis University, it was easy to wonder if this would be a year of transition for the Irish. It is not always easy for a new head coach to find immediate success, so it would have been forgivable if the Irish had a lackluster season.
Following that struggle in the season-opener, however, Notre Dame tore through two ranked foes in one weekend in Bloomington, Indiana. The Irish easily dispatched then-No. 18 Connecticut 3-0, and they followed that performance up with a 2-0 ousting of the then-No. 22 Dartmouth Big Green.
Over the course of three days, Notre Dame emerged as a potential national contender by easily taking care of two ranked teams. Notre Dame later defeated Syracuse on the road and played No. 2 Indiana University tight before falling in overtime.
Chad Riley, the head coach of the Fighting Irish, has brought in a winning culture and established it early in his new role with the squad.
Riley is no stranger to success. His team at Dartmouth College dominated the Ivy League for several seasons, and he served as the assistant coach for Notre Dame from 2006 until 2011. He is a 4-time Ivy League champion as the Dartmouth head coach, and he helped lead two Big East championship squads at Notre Dame in 2007 and 2008.
Now, Riley is proving that he was the right man to succeed Bobby Clark as the Irish head soccer coach. Clark, the head coach from 2001 until 2017, left grand expectations for the soccer program when he retired last November. Under Clark, the Irish won the 2013 national championship, marking the peak of the program’s success.
Riley has taken control of the program and has not allowed expectations to intimidate him. Instead, he has led the Irish to a No. 8 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches Poll. Despite the overtime loss to Indiana, the outlook for the Irish season appears promising.
However, the challenges are just getting started for Riley. Next week, Notre Dame will take on No. 4 Michigan State and No. 3 North Carolina. While both matches will take place on Notre Dame’s home turf in Alumni Stadium, the week ahead remains intimidating.
These upcoming matches against Michigan State and North Carolina will play a large role in determining how Riley’s first season as head coach will be shaped. If the Irish impress against some of the nation’s stiffest competition, then they will cement themselves as a force to be reckoned with this season.
This upcoming week, all eyes in collegiate soccer will be on Alumni Stadium, where Riley and the Irish will certainly be under the microscope.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.