August 26, 1997
Defending Big East Tournament Champion Notre Dame Set to Open Up 1997 With League Test at PittsburghNotre Dame, Ind. -- The Notre Dame men's soccer team, defending BIG EAST tournament champions, will open up the 1997 on the road when the Irish travel to Pittsburgh on Friday, August 29 for a 7:15 p.m. contest. Coach Mike Berticelli's squad returns 12 letterwinners, including seven starters, off of last year's 14-7-2 squad which advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The '97 campaign is Notre Dame's third as a member of the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish finished third in the final regular-season standings a year ago and then went on to win their first-ever league tournament crown.
Exhibition Review: Marquette -- Sophomore ANDREW ARIS (Auckland, New Zealand) scored the game's only goal at the 31:34 mark of the contest as Notre Dame defeated Marquette 1-0 in Milwaukee, Wisc.
The contest proved to be somewhat of a defensive battle. The Golden Eagles outshot the Irish 10-9 in the game and Notre Dame goalkeeper GREG VELHO (Longwood, Fla.) made two saves in the game.
Head Coach Mike Berticelli: Notre Dame head coach Mike Berticelli begins his eighth season along the Irish sidelines and 22nd as a collegiate coach. He has led Notre Dame to three of the school's four NCAA tournament appearances, (1993, 1995 and 1996). A year ago, his Irish squad won the school's first-ever NCAA tournament game when it defeated second-seeded UNC Greensboro in the first round. Berticelli has a 77-56-11 (.573) mark at Notre Dame and is 264-111-34 (.687) overall in 21 seasons. In the last four seasons, his teams have won three conference tournament titles. Under Berticelli, the Irish claimed the 1996 BIG EAST tournament crown in just its second year as a member of the league with consecutive wins over ranked opponents Connecticut and Rutgers. During the 1993 and 1994 campaigns, the Irish won back-to-back MCC tournament crowns and earned berths in the NCAA tournament. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, he spent six seasons (1984-89) at Old Dominion where his teams compiled a 76-27-16 record for a .706 winning percentage. Berticelli coached for four years at UNC-Greensboro (1980-83) with his teams compiling a 70-9-5 record (.863) and winning two Division III national crowns in 1982 and 1983. His first head coaching stint was at Thomas College where he coached from (1976-79) with his teams posting a 41-19-2 mark during that four-year span. The Irish have won 10-plus games in five of his seven seasons at the Notre Dame helm. Notre Dame's 14 wins a year ago were the second most during Berticelli's tenure with the Irish. His 1993 squad finished the season with a 15-6 record.
Series Record vs. Pittsburgh: The series is tied 1-1 with each team winning on its own home field. In 1995, the Irish lost a 3-0 decision to the Panthers, but reversed its fortunes a year ago with a 3-0 win at Alumni Field.
The Captains: The co-captains for the 1997 campaign are senior RYAN TURNER (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and junior MATT JOHNSON (Livermore, Calif.). TURNER is Notre Dame's top returning scorer from a year ago. He was second in the scoring column a year ago with five goals and four assists (14 points). JOHNSON, who has started 41 of 42 contests at Notre Dame, is the team's best defensive midfielder. He had three assists a year ago.
Home Sweet Home: Alumni Field has not been a friendly place for Irish opponents the past two seasons. Notre Dame had a 7-1-2 mark at home in '96 after posting an 8-3 record during the 1995 campaign. Prior to the loss to Wisconsin on October 31, 1996, the Irish had won 12 straight at Alumni Field. The Irish were 11-3-1 at Alumni Field in 1994. Berticelli's squad recorded eight shutouts in 1996, six of which were at home. The Irish gave up only five goals in 10 games. Over the past three seasons, Irish opponents have been shutout 19 times at Alumni Field.
Irish on the Road: Notre Dame was 7-6 in road contests (including one neutral game) last season - a vast improvement for the Irish from the previous two seasons. Heading into last season, Notre Dame was 2-14-1 on the road during the '94 and '95 campaigns. Notre Dame won back-to-back road games against Western Michigan (3-2) and Syracuse (1-0) at the beginning of October which marked the first time since the 1993 campaign that Notre Dame had won consecutive road outings. Coach Mike Berticelli's squad won three straight road games before falling to UNC Charlotte in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Irish victory at Providence on August 31 marked the first-ever BIG EAST road win.
Reversal of Fortune: Notre Dame's BIG EAST fortunes took a turn for the better in '96 as the Irish were 5-1-2 against squads they were 0-6 against in 1995. The Irish tied St. John's 2-2 after suffering a 6-0 setback in '95; beat West Virginia 1-0 after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Mountaineers; tied Connecticut 1-1 after losing 4-0; defeated Seton Hall 1-0 which avenged a 4-1 defeat in the fifth game of last season; and shutout Pittsburgh 3-0 by the same score in the Panther victory last year. In the BIG EAST tournament, the Irish beat Connecticut 2-1 in semifinal action and defeated Rutgers 1-0 in the championship game. The Irish lost 5-2 to Rutgers last season and 1-0 during the regular season. Notre Dame's loss to Boston College on November 3 marked the second straight year the Irish suffered a setback to the Eagles. Notre Dame only lost to one team (Villanova) it beat in '95. Picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches' poll, the Irish won the BIG EAST tournament championship after ending previous season tied for 10th with a 4-7 mark.
Close Calls: Six of Notre Dame's 14 victories last season were by 1-0 scores. Four of the six 1-0 decisions were on the road - Providence, Syracuse, Rutgers and UNC Greensboro. The final 10 games of the season were decided by one goal. Notre Dame was 5-5 in those outings.
Tough Schedule: Notre Dame will once again play a formidable schedule. Five opponents on the '97 slate are ranked in either one or both of the preseason polls (Soccer America or NSCAA/Umbro) -- defending national champion St. John's, Indiana, Rutgers, SMU and Connecticut.
Irish Picked Third in Preseason Poll: In the BIG EAST preseason voting by the league's 12 head coaches, the Irish are picked to finish third in the regular-season race. A year ago, Notre Dame finished in third-place with a 6-3-2 mark and then went on to win the BIG EAST tournament crown. Defending NCAA champion St. John's, which has won four of the last five BIG EAST tournaments titles and was the '96 regular-season champion, has been unanimously chosen as the preseason favorite to win the '97 soccer title. For the first time in BIG EAST history last season, the league had teams advance to the second round.
1996 Record Overall '96 Regular-Season Finish 1. St. John's (11) 9-1-1 22-2-2 1st 2. Rutgers (1) 6-4-1 13-7-3 4th 3. NOTRE DAME 6-3-2 14-7-2 3rd 4. Connecticut 7-2-2 15-3-3 2nd 5. Seton Hall 4-5-2 7-10-2 tied 6th 6. Syracuse 5-5-1 10-7-2 5th 7. Boston College 3-4-4 3-10-4 tied 6th 8. Georgetown 4-5-2 7-10-2 tied 6th 9. Providence 2-5-4 6-8-4 tied 9th 10. Villanova 3-6-2 7-9-8 tied 9th 11. West Virginia 3-7-1 7-12-1 11th 12. Pittsburgh 2-7-2 8-7-2 tied 9th
Irish in the Pros: Notre Dame has three players playing professionally. Dan Stebbins (1987-90) plays for the Dallas Burn in the MLS. Recent Irish graduates Tony Capasso and Peter Gansler, who both played from 1993-96 and served as captains of the '96 squad play in the A-League. Capasso is a member of the Montreal Impact, while Gandler plays for the Milwaukee Rampage.
Cutler Returns: Senior DAVID CUTLER (Seattle, Wash.) returns to the Notre Dame lineup after spending the last year studying in Rome, Italy. The senior architecture major was one of just two players to start all 19 games for the Irish in 1995. A Dean's List student, he earned a perfect 4.00 grade point average in the '97 spring semester.
Maio on Canadian National Team: Freshman defender STEPHEN MAIO (Ontario, Canada) is one of the top defenders in all of Canada and is a member of the Canadian National Team.