Aug 23, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After a weeklong trip together maybe the last thing members of the Notre Dame men's soccer team wanted to do was spend more time with each other, but they didn't have that option as they were back on the practice field Friday morning.
There still is work that needs to be done since the seventh-ranked Fighting Irish are just one week away from their regular-season opener against No. 9 UCLA at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. The trip allowed the team to play four matches against two high-caliber opponents in addition to having quality training sessions during a crucial stretch of preseason camp. It also provided an opportunity for the younger players to learn about life on the road.
"The team spirit was very good during the trip," Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. "The freshmen always have chores to do on the road, but I loved the way the upperclassmen all pulled their weight and didn't leave it to the younger guys. I thought that was really, really good. That's the way it has to be with everyone pulling their weight and I thought that was a really good message."
The squad left last Friday for Omaha, Neb., and opened its 2013 exhibition slate Sunday against Creighton. Notre Dame fell 1-0 in the regulation match and then the two teams played to a scoreless draw in a 60-minute affair. The shorter match featured many of the team's younger players.
The Irish got back on the bus Monday morning and departed for Des Moines, Iowa, and a date with Drake. Following two days of training, the Fighting Irish and Bulldogs squared off Wednesday evening. The Notre Dame offense was ignited by second-half goals from juniors Vince Cicciarelli (64') and Max Lachowecki (73') en route to the 2-0 victory. Drake captured a 1-0 win in the shorter match.
"The first trip of the season is always pretty interesting because the freshmen are trying to find their role on the team," junior midfielder Nick Besler said. "For the most part I thought it went pretty well. It was nice that we could get four games in total. The freshmen got in two games and everyone else got in two games. The chemistry and the morale of the team is probably the highest it's been since I've been here. Overall, I thought it was a great trip."
The team returned to campus Thursday afternoon and following today's practice the players will have some time away from the field. Saturday will be a day off from training and the rookies will attend freshman orientation, while the upperclassmen get readjusted to campus life before fall semester classes begin Tuesday. The Irish return to the practice pitch Sunday afternoon to prepare for their final exhibition contest against Ohio State. Monday's showdown with the Buckeyes is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) at Alumni Stadium.
"We're starting to find a rhythm and a system that fits this group," Clark said. "We still have a little way to go with that. We have one more scrimmage with Ohio State and hopefully we can fine tune things a little bit more."
The Ohio State match will be Notre Dame's annual game to benefit Grassroot Soccer (GRS), which is an international non-governmental organization that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire and mobilize communities against the spread of HIV. GRS has a special connection to Notre Dame soccer as Dr. Tommy Clark, the eldest son of Irish head coach Bobby Clark, founded the organization. This will be the 10th season that Notre Dame has held a match to benefit GRS. Admission to the game is a $1 donation to GRS. Further donations will be accepted throughout the match.
Irish Picked Fourth in Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Poll
Notre Dame has been selected to finish fourth in its inaugural season of Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season play according to a vote of the league's 12 head coaches. Maryland was first followed by North Carolina and Wake Forest. The Terrapins had 10 first-place votes, while the Irish and Demon Deacons both had one. Virginia was picked in fifth place, followed by Clemson in sixth, Duke in seventh, and Boston College in the eighth slot. Syracuse, NC State, Virginia, and Pitt rounded out the preseason voting.
Finally, click here to read an article from Soccer America on former Notre Dame All-American Matt Besler (Nick's older brother), who continues to shine with the U.S. Senior National Team and Sporting Kansas City.
-- Sean Carroll