Aug. 20, 2001
The Notre Dame men’s soccer program will celebrate its 25th season as a varsity sport at the University in 2001 by welcoming a new coaching member into its family. Bobby Clark, who engineered successful turnarounds at Dartmouth and, most recently, Stanford, begins his Notre Dame tenure as the school’s fifth head coach.
Clark inherits a program which returns eight starters and 19 letterwinners from last year’s squad, which posted a 7-8-2 record. This edition of Notre Dame soccer boasts experience, talent and potential as the Irish look to return to their winning ways after the disappointment of two straight losing seasons.
Clark was introduced as Notre Dame’s head coach on Jan. 19 of this year, and since that introduction, has spent a great deal of time evaluating all aspects of his team. The 14-year veteran of the collegiate ranks knows what areas his squad must improve upon if they hope to move up the BIG EAST standings and compete for a conference title.
“I think it was a real key that I was able to be here in January and work with the team during the spring,” Clark says. “The spring provided a good time for me to get to know my team and for the players to get acquainted with my system. I think we accomplished a lot during that time.
“It was a fun period for us because I think that everybody really bought into the system. That is going to be very important for us because when the players get back to school, we really only have two weeks to prepare before the start of the season. I was impressed with the effort and energy that the players showed during the spring, and I think that will pay dividends when we start the season.”
While the early part of the upcoming campaign may be a transitional one for the Irish, Clark will continue to stress the one thing that has always defined his teams off the past — teamwork. It is something that will be a point of emphasis throughout the fall. He is realistic about the goals he has set for his squad when evaluating the entire season, but knows that the key to success at any level and in any sport is the ability of players and coaches to work together.
“I think that in order to reach our goals and be the best team that we can be, we first have to be a team with a capital ‘T,'” Clark says. “My experience over the years is that it is great to have good players, but unless those players make a good team when playing together, then you just don’t get as much enjoyment coaching them.
“I don’t evaluate a team based on wins and losses, but more on how it fulfills its potential. And until you become a team, you don’t ever fulfill your potential. That is one of the things we are going to work on this season. From the moment I arrived on campus and met with them, I’ve wanted to instill in them the importance of being a team. I have a lot of fun and get great satisfaction out of having my teams play together as a team.”
Clark will rely heavily on the leadership of his three captains — fifth-year player Griffin Howard, junior Andreas Forstner and sophomore Greg Martin. Each player has their own distinct, yet complementary style of leadership which will help define and shape the foundation and attitude of this year’s Irish team.
“Having good leadership is always important,” Clark says. “I look for Griffin, Andreas and Greg to be strong and vocal leaders for us. Leadership is going to be a real plus for us this season. I like the captains we have.”
The challenges for Clark’s team are twofold: accepting the setbacks and adversity it may face during the season and establishing a winning attitude and mentality.
“Regardless of how good a team is, there are going to be setbacks,” Clark says. “How we are going to handle the setbacks we may face is what is going to be the real test for us. We are going to face a lot of little tests throughout the season and how we deal with them is going to very critical.”
Clark believes that his team cannot get caught up early on in the season with just winning, he wants his squad to develop an attitude of being a winner on a consistent basis. What is going to be important for this Notre Dame team is to improve with every game as it moves towards meeting its expectations and fulfilling its potential.
“This team has to get in the habit of winning,” Clark says. “Winning is a habit and losing is a habit. The real great teams always expect to win and they find a way to do it. What we want to do is improve with every game and become the best team that we can possibly be.
“I want every player on this team to get into good daily habits. We also need to be able work together as a team are what I call the ‘we things’.” If we are able to do the “we things” on a regular basis, then that is going to make us successful. I feel confident in how we played in the spring that we are coming together as a team.”
Offensive firepower will be a top priority for the Irish in ’01. Notre Dame struggled offensively last season scoring just 19 goals in 17 games. Leading the forward line attack once again will be Erich Braun, a junior and the 1999 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. Braun was slowed by a couple of injuries last season which forced him to miss four games. He still, however, managed to finish second in the scoring column with four goals and three assists.
Clark expects to center his attack around Braun, who he believes has the capability of becoming one of the top forwards in the country because he is such a good finisher around the goal area. The dilemma facing Clark, however, is finding a good complement for Braun up top.
“Erich can be a very special player,” Clark says “He has the potential be one of the best forwards in the country. Erich has to be a leader for us and remain positive. He’s the best finisher we have on the team and does so many things well.”
While the Irish will look to Braun for his goal-scoring prowess, Clark knows that other players must contribute both up front and from the midfield. Heading into the season, one of the biggest question marks facing the first-year Irish coach is finding other players who can play alongside Braun and take on some of the scoring responsibility. In addition, he also is looking for someone who can create goal-scoring chances.
“We can’t put the pressure on our striker to score all of the goals,” Clark says. “Everyone (except the goalkeepers and central midfielders) needs to find a role in some capacity as either a scorer or as the one creating the goal-scoring chances. We need to have our players more involved offensively.”
Heading into the season, one of the question marks facing the first-year Irish coach is finding another forward who can help Braun this season. Juniors Rafael Garcia and Shea Helmle and sophomores Brian Jarvis and Devon Prescod all find themselves in position to compete for a starting job up front.
Garcia saw extensive playing time as a freshman and finished the season by scoring two goals and dishing off an assist, but played in only six games a year ago. He is looking to work his way back into the lineup as his Helmle, who missed all of last season with an injury.
Prescod played in 12 games and earned two starts last season, while Jarvis played in five contests.
“Each one of these players at one time during the spring played well,” Clark says. “However, no one emerged as a leading candidate for the other starting job at forward. Clearly there is going to be a lot of competition in the fall preseason, but we need someone to step up and contribute immediately.”
Look for Clark’s midfield corps to become more aggressive both offensively and defensively this season as Notre Dame looks to become more productive in this area of the field.
The Irish have struggled with offensive inconsistency the last couple of the years in this area of the field, but with the return of some key players, look for Notre Dame midfield unit to step up its level of play.
Chad Riley, the leading scorer from a year ago and a member of the BIG EAST All-Rookie team, headlines the list of returnees in the midfield. Riley, who scored three goals and dished off four assists, can play at either of the flank positions in the midfield.
Riley started 16 games for the Irish in his first season and proved to be an offensive threat. Notre Dame will look to Riley even more this season as both a scorer and creator. A player with solid technical skills and a tremendous knowledge of the game, Riley is an explosive player who uses both of his feet to his advantage. He has an attacking mentality and is always looking for ways to score or set up a teammate for a goal.
“Chad is a tremendous athlete who has worked extremely hard to improve all areas of his game,” Clark says. “He is a tremendous passer and has the ability to make the ball work for him. He does a good job of changing his pace in a game, and that can be attributed to his strong knowledge of the game. Chad is very committed to helping this team reach the next level.”
If the Irish are to improve offensively, senior Matt Rosso
is going to be a key and step up his game. He has the ability to score and create goals because of his quickness on the field. Rosso had two assists a year ago while playing in 13 games, but he needs to establish more of a goal-scoring mentality.
“Matt is going to play wide in the midfield so that we can take advantage of his quickness,” Clark says. “He has worked very hard getting himself conditioned and fit for the type of role we want him to have on this team during the upcoming season.”
Sophomore Justin Detter, who joined Riley as a member of the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team a year ago, will play in the central midfield area. He likes to push the ball forward and is always looking for ways to become more involved in the offense. Detter was the fourth-leading scorer a year ago as he finished with four goals and an assist. He is one of the team’s best all-around athletes because he does so many things well. Detter has an attacking mindset and can play either up in the Irish midfield area or back as a defender.
“Justin had a tremendous spring,” Clark says. “He’s a very solid player fundamentally who is strong both physically and mentally. He has the potential to become one of the finest midfielders in the country because he can fill a lot of different roles for us on the team. Justin is very committed this season to improving all facets of his game.”
Third-year player Paul Rodriguez will look to become more involved offensively this season. After playing in 12 games as a freshman, he saw action in only two contests a year ago. Rodriguez, however, can be somewhat of a utility player for the Irish in the midfield as Clark will look to take advantage of his quickness and experience.
“Paul can play an important role this season because of his versatility,” Clark says. “He is a technically sound player, but just needs to become more confident on the playing field.”
Junior Alan Lyskawa, who started all 20 games as a freshman in 1999, will be looking to return to his full-time starting role in the Irish lineup after making just two starts in 11 appearances a year ago. Lyskawa is a strong complement to Detter in the midfield and the two showed in the spring that they work very well together defensively.
“Alan played very well in the spring and worked well in the central midfield area with Justin Detter,” Clark says. “He can be a very key player for us this season because of the playing experience he has gained in the last couple of years. Alan will definitely have a role on this team this season.”
Second-year player Filippo Chillemi offers tremendous depth all across the midfield area and will look to increase his role and playing time this season. He played in 12 games a year ago and earned one start, dishing off an assist. A technically sound player, he was hampered somewhat by a knee injury but toward the end of the offseason was beginning to gain back his confidence.
“Filippo will contribute this season and I am expecting him to see more playing time,” Clark says. “He’s a versatile midfielder with solid, fundamental skills. Filippo gives us tremendous depth in the midfield and we plan on using him a great deal this season. He just needs to continue to improve and regain some of the confidence he lost while he was unable to play because of the injury.”
Look for freshman Kevin Goldthwaite to have an immediate impact for the Irish. He was one of the top prep standouts in the country last season and is player with considerable experience and success at both the national and club level. He is a talented attacking player who Clarks expects will come in and challenge for a starting spot in the midfield. He finished his scholastic career with 53 goals and 72 assists.
“Kevin was one of the top high school players a year ago,” Clark says. “He has enjoyed tremendous success at all levels he has competed at. He’s a proven goal scorer and also an adept passer. His high school statistics are a testament to the all-around and versatile player he is. He will certainly be an impact player for us this season.”
Freshman Luke Boughen will give the Irish added depth in the midfield, but may need a year of playing time before he contributes significantly.
Notre Dame’s defense should once again prove to be the strength of this year’s team as the Irish defensive unit possesses talent and experience. Depth will be dominant at this positiongiving the squad plenty of different of options and diversity throughout the season.
Clark’s defensive approach will be for the Irish to initiate their attack from the backfield. He wants his players to be more aggressive in pushing the ball up the field from the back.
The defense starts with veteran returnees Andreas Forstner, a junior, and fifth-year player Griffin Howard. Forstner and Howard, two of the three captains this season, were keys in the Irish backfield last season as Notre Dame posted shutouts in six of its 17 games.
Forstner is the real anchor to this team in terms of what he does on the field as well as the leadership role he has on the squad. One of the most talented defenders in the history of the program, he is greatly respected for his leadership and play on the field.
A starter the past two seasons, he was one of two players who started all 17 games for the Irish a year ago. Named the BIG EAST defensive player of the week twice during the 2000 campaign and a third team selection to the NSCAA Great Lakes all-region squad, he is an unselfish player who can initiate the attack with his excellent passing skills. Forstner has a tremendous knowledge of the game and a keen sense of always knowing where he is on the field at all times.
Forstner was hampered somewhat throughout the spring with a hernia, but he is expected to be fully recovered by the time the team reports in the fall.
“Andreas is a leader with a strong voice on this team,” Clarks says. “His style of play allows him to control the tempo of the game and the momentum of this team. He certainly is an individual who leads by example.
“He has an excellent understanding of the game and great anticipation of knowing where the ball is going to go. I can best describe Andreas as driven. He’s a great competitor who is very committed to winning.”
Howard earned a fifth year after sitting out the ’98 season with an injury. He had an impressive season a year ago and found his role on the team. He started 16 of the 17 games he played and finished with four goals (the first points of his career). Howard’s vast experience and maturity will help his young Irish squad. He is a player everyone on the team looks up to and respects because of is work ethic and commitment to the team.
“Griffin wants this to be a very special year,” Clark says. “He has worked extremely hard to get where he is. He and Andreas form a very strong tandem in the middle of the field. Griffin is a very good long passer and is strong in the air.”
Senior B.J. Cotter is a strong player who adds support in the middle. He rejoined the team a year ago after a year’s absence in ’99 and played in 13 contests, while earning four starts.
“B.J. is a very fit player who is strong and physical.” Clark says. “He’s extremely competitive and wants to be out there on the field. I like his style of play because he is so aggressive and physical. B.J. gives us great depth in the backfield and provides us with many options.”
Justin Ratcliffe adds versatility and experience to the backfield because he can play in any of the fullback slots. The Irish junior has seen considerable playing time in his first two seasons at Notre Dame, earning 10 starts in the 16 games he appeared in last year. Ratcliffe covers a lot of area on the field and is an excellent passer. His strong passing ability will help the Irish more efficiently run its transition game from the backfield.
“Justin will have an important role on the team this season because of versatility,” Clark says. “His greatest assets are his athleticism and his ability to play a number of different positions on the field. He has a great understanding of the game and is anxious to have an increased role on the team.”
Sophomore Greg Martin, one of the tri-captains, can play on either side of the defense. He is coming off an outstanding rookie season with the Irish as he earned 16 starts and saw action in all 17 contests. Martin is an attacking player who likes to move forward with the ball. A solid player with strong technical skills, he can play the ball extremely well with both of his feet.
“Greg’s style of play and his versatility complement the structure of our defense,” Clark says. “He has an attacking mentality and is a player who likes to push the ball forward and who gets forward easily. We plan to use Greg in a number of different ways on the field. He has a tremendous work ethic with a strong commitment to helping our team get better.”
Sophomore Kevin Richards adds quickness and finesse in the backfield area, and similar to Martin is an attacking type of player . He was one of four Irish freshmen a year ago to see action in all 17 contests, and in addition, scored a goal. Richards will see time at one of the wide fullback slots.
“Kevin did a tremendous job in the spring,” Clark says. “He wins a lot of balls because he is able to step in well and close in on the players he is defending. Kevin has the type of attacking mentality I want all of our defenders to have. He moves forward well and has good acceleration from the backfield.”
Freshman Jack Stewart has a similar style of play to that of Greg Martin and should be in the mix to see considerable playing time this season. He is big and strong with solid fundamental skills. With his athletic versatility, he can also play in the midfield area. An experienced player, Stewart was a member of both the under-16 and under-18 national teams. Selected as the California Player of the Year by the NSCAA, he played in a school-record 102 games during his career and scored 42 goals while dishing off 40 assists.
“Jack has tremendous potential and talent,” Clark says. “He has considerable experience with the national team prorgram. His greatest assests are his size and skill. Jack has good size and uses his strength and height to his advantage when playing balls out of the air.”
Three-year team member Tim Storino gives the Irish additional depth the backfield. He is a solid all-around player who adds so much to program because of his strong work ethic and attitude, he continually challenges his teammates in practice. Storino uses his speed well and will be looking to see more playing time this season.
Freshmen Christopher High and Gianni Mauro give the Irish more options in the backfield. They are both left-footed players who may need some time to adjust to the college game before seeing significant playing time.
There will be plenty of competition in goal this season with the return of juniors Greg Tait and Cole Straub and the addition of freshman Chris Sawyer. Tait and Straub were the only two goalkeepers on the Irish roster a year ago, so the addition of the talented rookie will give Notre Dame tremendous depth at this position.
Tait started 11 of the 12 games he played, while Straub was a starter in six contests as the Irish registered a 1.19 goals against average as a team. Heading into the upcoming campaign, Tait looks to be the frontrunner after a tremendous spring, while Straub hopes to regain the form he had toward the latter half of the season.
Tait, a tall, lanky player who uses his height to his advantage, registered 3.5 shutouts, a 1.23 goals against average and .712 save percentage. The agile goalie allowed 15 goals in the 12 games he played and made 37 saves in 1095 minutes of action.
“Greg saw all of the minutes in the spring and certainly established himself during that time,” Clark says. “The experience he gained a year ago really benefited him in the spring. Greg can do a lot of things and uses his height to his his advantage.”
Straub started the final six games of the season and played a total of 495 minutes. He had a 1.09 goals against average and .793 save percentage while allowing just six goals, making 23 saves and registering 2.5 shutouts.
“We didn’t get a chance to see Cole play in the spring, but he certainly will be vying for a starting job,” Clark says. “He has proven that he can handle the pressure of being a starter and I look for him to provide a lot of competition for the other two goalkeepers.”
Sawyer was one of the top high school prospects in the country. Similar to Tait, he is very tall and has a physical presence around the goal area. He is an instinctive player with a good knowledge of the game. A three-year starter at Highlands Ranch, he posted a school-record 34 shutouts during his career, while recording a 50-5-3 mark.
“Chris has a tremendous understanding of the game and is a solid all-around player,” Clark says. “He has great instincts and is a good communicator on the field. I expect Chris to develop into an outstanding collegiate goalkeeper.”
The BIG EAST
Notre Dame begins its seventh year in the BIG EAST Conference as the Irish will look to improve on their ninth-place finish of a year ago. For just the second time since becoming a league member, the Irish failed to earn a berth in the eight-team conference championship.
As in previous season, the BIG EAST will be as strong as ever with defending national NCAA champion expected to challenge for top honors again. The addition of Virginia Tech to league competition only strengthens one of the nation’s best conferences.
Clark looks forward to the high level of play in the BIG EAST and anticipates that there will be significant challenges for his team in each conference contest.
“The BIG EAST is without question one of the premier men’s soccer conferences in the country,” Clark says. “The school have made a tremendous commitment to the sport. All of the coaches in this league have tremendous reputations and I have known many of them for a long time. I feel very comfortable coaching in this league.”