July 25, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team is ranked No. 16 in the College Soccer News preseason poll, which was recently released. The Irish return nine starters and 14 letterwinners that made it to the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA tournament. Also adding to the mix is a seven-man recruiting class that was rated as the 16th-best in the nation according to College Soccer News.
Notre Dame returns several key components from last year’s squad, including the bulk of the offense. The Irish went 12-8-3 (6-4-1 BIG EAST) last season and are bringing back 27 of 29 goals and 77 of 87 total points from one year ago.
Leading the way in 2006 will be senior All-American midfielder Greg Dalby (Poway, Calif./Poway) and all-BIG EAST performers in senior Ian Etherington (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral) and junior Joseph Lapira (Lake Charles, La./Saint Louis Catholic). Lapira led the Irish last season in goals with seven and points with 19. Fellow attackman Justin McGeeney (Ames, Iowa/Ames), a senior, is also back up front as is sophomore Bright Dike (Edmond, Okla./Edmond North), who showed flashes during his rookie campaign.
The Notre Dame defense is also looking strong with a nice blend of youth and experience. Fifth-year senior Dale Rellas (Plano, Texas/Plano West) will once again anchor the backline along with senior Ryan Miller (Barrington, Ill./Barrington) and sophomore Jack Traynor (St. Charles, Mo./Francis Howell North), all returning starters. Chris Cahill (Louisville, Ky./St. Francis DeSales) impressed many during his first season by starting every game in goal and posting a 0.85 goals-against average as a junior last year. He brings a solid presence along with experience to the Irish lineup this season.
The 2006 freshman class for the Fighting Irish features two All-Americans in midfielders Justin Morrow (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) and Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas). Morrow compiled 42 goals during his prep career, while Thomas notched 41 career goals and 28 assists en route to being named an All-American on two occasions.
Also bolstering the well-balanced class is midfielder Dave Donohue (Reading, Mass./Cushing Academy) and forward Tamba Samba (Indianapolis, Ind./Ben Davis). Donohue is a two-time all-state performer in Massachusetts, while Samba was named to the Indiana all-state team as a senior following a 23-goal campaign.
Defender John Schaefer (Troy, Mich./Detroit Jesuit), who was named to the all-state team twice, goalkeeper Philip Tuttle (Hooksett, N.H./Brewster Academy) and midfielder John Baumgardner (Eagan, Minn./Eagan) round out the accomplished class for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame opens the 2006 slate, which features five teams ranked in the top-30 College Soccer News preseason poll, with the fifth-annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament at Alumni Field. The Irish take on UAB on Friday, Aug. 25 and then face No. 10 Creighton on Sunday, Aug. 27. The other ranked teams on the Notre Dame ledger are Connecticut (#4), South Florida (#11), Indiana (#13) and St. Louis (#27).