Aug. 6, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After ending the 2013 campaign atop the national rankings, the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team will begin the 2014 season in the same spot as the defending national champion debuts at No. 1 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll.
Maryland, the 2013 national runner-up, is ranked second followed by Notre Dame’s Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia. Six Fighting Irish opponents, including three ACC foes, appear in the top-25 poll. The other ranked opponents are: Georgetown (#9), Michigan State (#10), Marquette (#12), Louisville (#14) and North Carolina (#22). Wake Forest appears at No. 11, but the Irish will not face the Demon Deacons during ACC regular-season play. The ACC’s five ranked teams are the most from any conference in the country.
“It’s a new situation for us (being preseason No. 1 and defending national champion),” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “I’ve said this previous years, I don’t even know if we were in the top-20 last year in the preseason rankings. The only rankings that matter are the RPI that determines if you’re going to make the NCAA tournament or not and the final ranking. You take the preseason ranking and put it in your back pocket and move on.”
The NSCAA also released the watch list for the 2014 Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy and Fighting Irish senior midfielder Nick Besler is among the 32 student-athletes up for the award. The MAC Hermann Trophy is the most prestigious individual award in NCAA soccer and it’s presented annually to the national player of the year. The winner will be announced Jan. 9, 2015, at the trophy presentation banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.
Despite missing eight games last season with a leg injury, Besler copped first team All-ACC honors and was named to the NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region First Team. The central midfielder assisted on the goal that knotted the national title game, 1-1, in the 40th minute and he was selected to the NCAA All-Tournament Team. Besler, an Irish team captain, has played in 51 career matches, including 38 starts, and has registered one goal and three assists.
The watch list is compiled by the NSCAA Men’s NCAA Division I All-America Committees, based on their analysis of returning All-America and All-Region players, as well as any prominent newcomers.
Near the end of the collegiate regular season, NCAA Division I coaches that are NSCAA members will vote on their top choices and the lists will be narrowed down to the top 15 players. College soccer fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the selection process, by voting for their favorite semifinalist in November at the MAC Hermann Trophy website. From that pool of 15 players, three finalists will be chosen.
The Fighting Irish have produced a finalist each of the last two seasons. Ryan Finley garnered the recognition in 2012, while Harrison Shipp was a finalist last season. Notre Dame’s lone MAC Hermann Trophy winner was Joseph Lapira in 2006.
“This is great for Nick (Besler) because he’s been a terrific player for us,” Clark said. “However, the last two years, neither Ryan Finley or Harry Shipp were on the watch list. No one thought those guys were at that level at the start of the year. When Joe Lapira won it, he also wasn’t on the watch list. So again, I don’t put a lot of value in preseason rankings and watch lists. It’s terrific for Nick, but I think we have several other people who can also push Nick and the more folk that we have pushing him, the better team we’re going to be.”
The Fighting Irish begin exhibition play with road tilts against Saint Louis (Aug. 16) and Bradley (Aug. 19) and their final preseason tune-up will take place Aug. 25 when No. 21 Wisconsin visits Alumni Stadium for a 7 p.m. (ET) kickoff. Regular-season action begins Aug. 29 against No. 12 Marquette at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind. Notre Dame will face No. 9 Georgetown on Aug. 31 in the second and final day of the tournament. The home opener is scheduled for Sept. 5 versus Dartmouth during the first day of the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament.
To purchase tickets for the 2014 Fighting Irish men’s soccer season, call the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356, visit the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets or stop by the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office windows during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday). Tickets also can be purchased at Alumni Stadium on match days.
— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director