Aug. 13, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The fall practice schedule officially commenced for the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team on Wednesday, with a pair of training sessions taking place on the practice pitch at old Alumni Field. It was the first organized team training periods in preparation for the 2015 Fighting Irish season since the team reported to campus at the beginning of the week.
“There was good energy in both sessions, and I thought we covered a lot of ground in them,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “It’s amazing because we have to put something together beginning Wednesday for a game on Sunday, and it’s almost impossible to cover everything.
“One of the most important things at this time are the upperclassmen, they have to be the teachers,” Clark said. “Not coach (BJ) Craig, coach (Michael) Casper or I. We can coach a little bit, but for the older guys on the field what we’re doing is not new to them. They have got to be the guys to bring the seven freshmen along, and so far they are doing a fantastic job. Our captains, seniors, all of the upperclassmen are doing a great job educating the younger players, and that made for a very good first day.”
With a pair of practices scheduled for Thursday and Friday before a single training session and travel on Saturday, the race is on for Notre Dame to prepare for its first exhibition game on Sunday afternoon against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. With the shortage of time, the pace will remain frenetic throughout the first week for the Fighting Irish.
“You’ve got to keep going forward,” Clark said. “Day one doesn’t mean too much, day two, day three, we’ve got to be semi-ready by Sunday to look like a team. We will then have our two other scrimmages after that, so at the end of the three scrimmages we will have to be ready for the regular season.”
Thankfully for the majority of players, being present on campus during summer classes and the four camp sessions Notre Dame hosted helped to get ahead of the curve.
“The guys who are here for summer school are able to work out with our fitness coach, and this is the fittest we have ever been going into camp,” Clark said. “I give (director of sport science) Matt Howley, our fitness coach, a tremendous amount of credit here. Since he has taken over the fitness program we have continued to get better and better. For the (conditioning) beep test this year our team average was a 29, and we take 23 as our pass number, so you can see we are well above that.
“A lot of the things we do at camp are exactly the same things we do here, so the guys who worked camp during the summer got a good picture of what things look like,” Clark added. “They had an early sneak preview, and all of these things go together and help.”
With only seven scheduled training sessions before the first exhibition match of the fall, Notre Dame, and men’s soccer programs in general, must quickly find ways to re-acclimate to game speed in a game setting. Changes to the preseason calendar and procedures, according to Clark, would be helpful but might stall potential leadership opportunities.
“If we had eight hours a week in the summer for those guys that are on campus it would be fantastic,” Clark said. “Having said that we’re doing pretty well without it, and because we can’t work with them directly it means that the captains and the upperclassmen have to run it. It’s great for leadership and in some ways maybe it’s better to leave things the way they are, because it creates leaders within the team.”
Irish Build Chemistry At Pretty Lake
As part of an organized activity on Monday, Notre Dame traveled to the Pretty Lake Camp in Mattawan, Michigan, to take part in team building exercises. The highlight of the afternoon was the camp’s high ropes course, where all team members take part in challenges to help build camaraderie and overcome fears.
“For me it was frightening,” Clark said. “You have to pair up, and coach Craig and I got up 35 feet above ground on these wires. I remember we were halfway through the first exercise and I said, “BJ, I think we should go back.” Then I also thought we can’t go back, what message is that to the team? Here it was pouring wet rain in that moment, we’re soaked, and I said we’ve got to go on. Once you got on you could go back and get off, or go on for another five exercises before you can get off, so we did that.”
The coaching staff, and the rest of the team, pressed on in the challenging conditions.
“It is quite frightening when you’re up at that height, but the whole team, all 27 plus our coaches, our operations director Ciara (O’Halloran) and one of our managers Sara (Chesser) went round it as well,” Clark said. “It was a fun day, and I think there was a lot of team building and camaraderie in it. The rain lashing down gave it an extra bit of spice, and it’s something that this group will remember.
“I think it is something we will do again, up at Pretty Lake. It wasn’t too pretty when we were up there when the rain was coming down, but it was a pretty good time.”
Notre Dame Slotted Third In Coastal In Preseason ACC Poll
The Fighting Irish were tabbed third in the Coastal Division according to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) preseason predicted order of finish that was released on Thursday. All 12 head coaches in the league cast votes for the poll.
Notre Dame earned 54 total voting points to finish narrowly behind defending NCAA champion Virginia (64 points) and North Carolina (59 points) in the Coastal Division standings. Virginia was picked to win the overall league championship with four first-place votes, followed by Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville and Clemson with two votes each.
Opening Exhibition On Sunday
Notre Dame begins its 2015 scrimmage slate with a 2 p.m. (ET) kickoff on Sunday against Ohio State at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. There will be no live stream or live stats available for Sunday’s contest.
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