Notre Dame men's soccer coach Mike Berticelli understands the word commitment, and as he begins his 10th season along the Irish sidelines the commitment to keeping the Irish in the national spotlight has not waned.
In nine seasons at the helm, he has guided Notre Dame to three of the school's four NCAA tournament appearances. In 1996, he orchestrated the most successful season in Irish men's soccer history as Notre Dame won the BIG EAST tournament championship in just its second season as a league member, earning the automatic berth into the 32-team NCAA field. Once in the tournament for the third time in four years, the Irish won their first-ever NCAA tournament game with a 1-0 upset win over second-ranked North Carolina-Greensboro.
Notre Dame's '96 BIG EAST title marked the third time in four years that the Irish won their respective conference tournament after earning back-to-back crowns as a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1993 and 1994.
The Irish, who finished the '96 campaign with a 14-7-2 overall mark and 6-3-2 record (third in the final regular season standings) in BIG EAST play, earned the title the hard way as the Irish beat 14th-ranked Connecticut in the semifinals (2-1) and 12th-ranked Rutgers (1-0) to claim the crown.
Berticelli's squad, which finished 17th in the final Soccer America rankings and 20th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Umbro polls, was not just content with winning the BIG EAST crown. In the biggest first-round upset of the '96 NCAAs, the Irish stunned the Spartans on UNCG's home field. The contest marked a homecoming for Berticelli who had coached at UNCG from 1980-83 and led the school to two straight Division III national titles in 1982 and 1983. Despite losing a 1-0 NCAA second-round heartbreaker in the final 24 seconds of regulation to North Carolina-Charlotte, nothing could diminish what Berticelli and his Irish had accomplished - putting Notre Dame soccer back into the national limelight.
Midfielder Tony Capasso, a four-year standout for the Irish, became just the second Notre Dame player (and first under Berticelli) to earn All-America honors as he garnered third-team honors in '96. In 23 years as coach, 11 of Berticelli's players have earned All-America distinction.
Since joining the BIG EAST, Notre Dame has earned a spot in the Conference's eight-team tournament three of the four seasons the Irish have been a member of the league. Berticelli also guided his team into the '96 semifinals after Notre Dame beat Seton Hall 2-0 in the BIG EAST tournament quarterfinals on the Pirates' home field.
Berticelli took over a program back in 1990 that had experienced some, but not a lot of success on the national level. Since men's soccer became a varsity sport back in 1977, Notre Dame had made only one appearance in the NCAA tournament (1988). Prior to his arrival, the Irish had played several nationally-ranked opponents through the years, but their schedule seldom included more than one or two teams annually ranked in the top 20.
Since taking over the Irish program, Berticelli and the Irish have been in the NCAA tournament three of the last six years. He has upgraded the schedule that now includes five or six top-flight opponents each season. And the Irish have certainly earned the respect of their opponents nationally and have shown that they can match up with any team in the country. In 1994, a controversial 1-0 overtime NCAA loss to top-ranked and eventual runner-up Indiana dispelled any notions that Notre Dame was a team just happy to be in the tournament. In 1995, Notre Dame started the year 3-0 and in the second week of the season was ranked sixth (the highest ranking in school history) in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Poll.
Taking Notre Dame from a humble beginning to a top-level program, Berticelli has built the Irish program from scratch. And one thing is for sure - he intends to maintain the continued growth and strides that have been made over the past several seasons.
The path of reconstruction is one Berticelli has blazed in his 23 seasons as a head coach. The 1973 graduate of the University Maine-Farmington has rebuilt programs at all of those schools at which he has coached and produced winning records in all but three campaigns. He earned his 250th career victory on November 3, 1995, when the Irish defeated Villanova 4-1 in the final regular season home game of the '95 campaign. His career coaching ledger stands at 283-126-39 (.679), while his nine-year mark at Notre Dame is 96-71-16 (.568). His 283 wins ranks him 11th among active Division I head coaches, and he stands 20th among his coaching peers in terms of winning percentage.
Prior to taking over the helm of the Irish, Berticelli chartered the fortunes of the Old Dominion soccer team for six years. He won two NCAA Division III national championships during a four-year stint at North Carolina-Greensboro and began his coaching career at Thomas College (Maine).
From a dismal beginning to national tournament appearances three of the past four seasons, the Irish have come a long way. After a 4-11-3 mark in his first year in 1990, Berticelli has piloted the Irish to 10 or more victories in six of the past seven seasons, dotted with wins over perennial soccer powers.
Just one year after becoming head coach, Berticelli brought in a freshman class of 13 in 1991, started nine on the field, and posted a 13-5-2 record. The Irish tied nationally-ranked Evansville and lost to third-ranked Indiana in overtime. The Irish won 11 of their next 13 games before falling to Evansville in the MCC final.
The scheduling of other national powers and top-notch competition in tournaments saw four nationally-ranked squads on the slate in 1992 as the Irish opened the season with one-goal losses to UCLA and eventual NCAA semifinalist Duke. Notre Dame earned its first-ever preseason ranking from Soccer America, entering the poll at 20th. The Irish narrowly missed their chance at the NCAA tournament automatic bid, falling to Evansville for the second consecutive year, this time in the semifinals of the MCC tournament.
With only one starting senior in 1993, Berticelli's three recruiting classes propelled the Irish into the NCAAs for the first time since 1988. Led by MCC player of the year Bill Lanza and Indiana Met-Life Classic MVP Tim Oates, Notre Dame won Indiana's annual classic and defeated NCAA finalist South Carolina in the first round of the Mitre Notre Dame Classic. The Irish finished 15-6 and recorded the highest number of wins since 1988, while appearing in the national polls for the last four weeks of the season with a final ranking of 20th. Berticelli also copped MCC Coach of the Year honors for his efforts.
Mike Palmer, the lone starting senior on the '93 squad, was drafted in the second round by Dayton, continuing Berticelli's string of former players who joined the professional ranks. Berticelli has coached 10 All-Americans while nearly 20 of his former players have gone on to professional soccer careers. Dan Stebbins plays for the Miami Fusion in the MLS, while two players are on A-League rosters - Brian Engesser (Orange County Zodiacs) and Peter Gansler (Milwaukee Rampage).
In 1994, there were high expectations for an experienced, talented and veteran Irish team. Members of Notre Dame's highly-touted, and Berticelli's first, recruiting class were now all seniors, and faced their most formidable schedule in school history. Prior to its first game, Berticelli's team was ranked 16th nationally.
While the Irish struggled with inconsistency for most of the fall and finished with a 12-10-2 mark in the midst of facing six ranked opponents throughout the season, Notre Dame regrouped in time for the MCC championships. A late-season run enabled Berticelli's squad to claim its second consecutive MCC tournament crown with a 3-2 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A week later the Irish secured the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament for the second straight year by winning a 1-0 double-overtime thriller against Mid-Continent Conference champion Central Connecticut.
During his six-year tenure at Old Dominion, Berticelli's teams compiled a 76-27-16 (.706) record to go along with a 70-9-5 (.863) mark in four years (1980-83) at North Carolina-Greensboro and a 41-19-2 (.703) record in four seasons at Thomas College.
In his 23 years of coaching at four different schools, Berticelli's teams have appeared in the national top 20 poll 18 of those 23 years and every program has been ranked during his tenure.
Berticelli, who has received coach-of-the-year honors in 10 different seasons, drew national attention for leading UNC-Greensboro to back-to-back NCAA Division III national titles in 1982 and 1983. Prior to his arrival in 1979, the Spartans had losing seasons in seven of their previous nine years.
When he arrived at Old Dominion in 1984, Berticelli inherited a program that had just one winning season in its previous three years and a team that had lost eight starters. The Monarchs overcame those obstacles and posted a 12-9-1 record in '84 and Berticelli earned Sun Belt Conference coach-of-the-year honors.
The following season Old Dominion posted a school record for wins with a 16-1-3 record, including a victory over nationally-ranked Virginia to end the Cavaliers' 44-game home winning streak. That Old Dominion squad established 16 school records and produced a pair of All-Americans and three players who were selected in the professional soccer draft.
In 1986, Berticelli's squad, which consisted of 11 freshmen, 10 sophomores, three juniors and no seniors, went 13-5-3 and was ranked 10th nationally. The season was highlighted by a 1-0 upset of top-ranked Evansville on the Purple Aces' home field.
Old Dominion continued its growth in 1987, capturing the tough Sun Belt Conference championship en route to a 14-3-2 record. Berticelli's 1988 squad posted an 11-5-3 record. In 1989, the Monarchs made their first appearance in the NCAA tournament after winning the Sun Belt championship. Old Dominion, ranked 19th nationally, fell to fourth-ranked Wake Forest 2-1 in the first-round contest and finished the season with a 10-4-4 mark.
Berticelli began his collegiate coaching career at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine. He guided the team to NAIA district championships in '78 and '79.
A native of Lewiston, Maine, Berticelli earned his bachelor of science in English from the University of Maine at Farmington, where he was a goalkeeper and captained the team. He obtained a master of science in physical education from the University of Maine at Orono in 1976.
Berticelli's resume is filled with coaching accolades, highlighted by his being named the 1982 NCAA Division III Coach of the Year following his first national title at UNC-Greensboro. He was a three-time New England coach of the year honoree and was awarded the same distinction in the Dixie Conference in 1980, '81 and '83. In 1981, he was also named the collegiate coach of the year for the Southern Region and was tabbed the collegiate coach of the year for the Southern United States in both '82 and '83. He picked up Sun Belt Conference Coach-of the Year honors in '84 and '89.
Berticelli currently chairs the Great Lakes Region Ratings Board and is a member of the ISAA Division I National Rating Commitee. He also served as the National Director of Coaching for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and is very active in youth soccer both in the South Bend area and nationally.
In the summer of '94, Berticelli authored player evaluations for USA Today during the World Cup after serving in a similar role in the USA-Germany match in U.S. Cup '93.
In June '99, Berticelli, a two-sport athlete in college (soccer and basketball). was inducted into the Maine-Farmington Sports Hall of Fame. In June of '97, he was honored with the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. He also received the President's Award from that same organization two years prior.
Born April 26, 1951, he and his wife, Cinda, are the the parents of two sons, Nino, 1999 Notre Dame graduate, and Anthony, a junior at the University.
Mike Berticelli's Coaching Record
Berticelli's Coaching Honors
Berticelli vs. All Opponents