Aug. 15, 2015
TIME: 12:30 and 2 p.m. (ET)
LOCATION: Columbus, Ohio (Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium – cap. 8,000)
LAST MEETING: ND 2-1 (11/23/14 at ND)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — After opening with two-a-day practice sessions earlier in the week, it is already time for the exhibition schedule of the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team to officially begin on Sunday afternoon. The Irish travel to Columbus, Ohio for a pair of scrimmage matches against Ohio State at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Game one between No. 4 Notre Dame (12-5-4 in 2014) and No. RV Ohio State (9-8-5 in 2014) is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. (ET). The second contest between the Irish and the Buckeyes will kick off at 2 p.m.
“I think we’ve looked pretty good so far,” left back/tri-captain Max Lachowecki said after Friday afternoon’s training session. “Usually we don’t throw as many of the freshmen into drills right away. There have been a lot of guys in the mix early on and I think they’ve handled it well, especially in only three days.”
Trying to prepare an entire team to be in game shape in such a short amount of time is certainly a challenge, but the obstacle is one that Notre Dame has approached both on and off the field.
“All you can really ask this early on is that everyone is focused and is 100 percent ready to go mentally every time we get out on the field,” midfielder/tri-captain Connor Klekota said. “I think we’ve done a great job in the sessions we have already had, and we’ve come out ready to learn and play.”
One thing that stands to benefit the Irish entering the 2015 season was the overall freshness of the team at the outset of fall training sessions on Wednesday. A busy schedule last summer left the Notre Dame players with a full slate prior to arrival on campus, while this year all returners and newcomers were dialed in physically from day one.
“It is definitely a mixture along with the new guys coming in with a lot of excitement not having been here yet and ready to play,” Lachowecki said. “The summer also gave everyone a better chance to recover, where as last year we went to Africa (for Grassroot Soccer) and came back without a lot of rest time. Everybody feels rejuvenated and ready to go this year, everyone was excited to get back.”
The pressure associated with a previous season’s success will also not weigh quite as heavily on the 2015 version of the Irish.
“We’re not coming off winning a national championship anymore,” Klekota said. “We all have a point every single day when we go out to train, we all know what we want our end goal to be. Everyone has those goals in the back of their mind and we’re trying to do everything that we can to get there.”
Notre Dame’s three scheduled scrimmages with outside opposition provide a break in intrasquad training before the Irish open the regular season at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington on Aug. 28-30. Entering the team’s first outside test on Sunday, Notre Dame’s team leaders are committed to a common plan.
“It’s a little early to expect everyone to play a certain way, we are still figuring out how guys play,” Lachowecki said. “We do have a set style that we like to play and we’re trying to train the young guys into that formation, but at the same time you don’t want to stop anyone’s abilities. We’re still learning about the new players, and even with the older players at new positions, so we need to continue to work hard and try to get everyone acclimated.”
“Our expectation is to work as hard as we can and play as well as we can,” Klekota added. “We hope that it is at a very high level, but as of right now we have yet to put on a show this season. All we can ask is that we go out 100 percent with our minds and our energy, and hopefully that will bring a result.”
MEET THE IRISH
-Notre Dame was ranked fourth in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll that was released last week. The Irish, one of three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) teams in the initial NSCAA top five (Virginia, No. 2, North Carolina, No. 5), logged a 12-5-4 record in 2014 that included an ACC regular-season championship following a 6-1-1 conference mark.
-A total of 10 monogram winners, including six regular starters, are back in the fold from the 2014 Notre Dame team that reached the NCAA Championship Round of 16 for the third consecutive season.
-Senior midfielder and tri-captain Patrick Hodan returns as the reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Year after pacing the Notre Dame attack with nine goals and 21 points in 2014. Hodan, a 2014 NSCAA first team All-American and CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America first team selection, was recently named to the Missouri Athletic Club’s (MAC) Hermann Trophy Watch List.
-For the first time since 2012, Notre Dame will have a goalkeeper other than Patrick Wall (’14) appear in net. Wall started the last 46 Irish matches in that span. Senior Brian Talcott, junior Chris Hubbard and freshman Ryan Krutz are in the mix to earn the starting goalkeeper job this season.
IRISH AGAINST OHIO STATE
-Notre Dame is 8-1-1 all-time in regular season and postseason matches against Ohio State, including a 2-0-1 record in matches played in Columbus. The Fighting Irish downed the Buckeyes 2-1 on Nov. 23, 2014 in the NCAA Championship Round of 32 at Alumni Stadium.
-Prior to last season’s NCAA Championship meeting Notre Dame and Ohio State had played only once in the previous 21 seasons, a 2-1 Buckeyes win on November 23, 2004 in the NCAA tournament’s second round at old Alumni Field.
-Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark is 1-1-0 all-time in his career against Ohio State.
“Any time you play a team from the Big Ten or any other major conference, you want to play well,” fifth-year senior left back/tri-captain Max Lachowecki said. “Ohio State is certainly going to work very hard, and that’s one thing that we can focus on. Over the last few days all of the drills and shooting, it may not be perfect but when everyone is working hard we are a very skilled team. We should able to use those skills to come out and beat most teams. Ohio State will be a tough team to play against, and we know how hard they worked in the NCAA tournament game last year.”
SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES
-Ohio State returns 18 veterans from its 2014 team that logged a 9-8-5 record and reached the second round of the NCAA Championship before dropping a 2-1 decision to Notre Dame on Nov. 23 at Alumni Stadium.
-Junior forward Danny Jensen is the leading returning scorer for the Buckeyes after tallying six goals and 13 points in 21 starts last season.
A HOMECOMING FOR KLEKOTA
-Senior midfielder/tri-captain Connor Klekota is the only resident Ohioan on the 2015 Notre Dame roster, growing up two hours north of Columbus in Amherst.
“I’m personally excited because I played my club soccer in Columbus, and both of Ohio State’s assistant were my club coaches,” Klekota said. “I trained with six or seven of their players this summer down with the Columbus Crew, so I know they will be gunning for us since we took them out of the NCAA tournament last year. Even though it’s a preseason game I think it’s going to be really competitive and a hard-fought game.”
Season and single game tickets for Notre Dame men’s soccer are on sale now. Visit und.com/tickets or call the Murnane Family Ticket Office at 574-631-7356.
— Tony Jones, Athletics Communications Assistant