Junior defender Matt Habrowski is among the potential breakout players for Notre Dame in 2015

Irish Ready To Defend ACC Crown

Aug. 27, 2015

NOTRE DAME, Ind. ââ’¬” During its first two seasons as an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member, the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team has reached new heights.

A 29-6-10 (.756) overall record, including a 13-2-4 (.789) mark in conference play, has carried the Irish to consecutive ACC regular-season championships in 2013 and 2014. Notre Dame also reached the pinnacle of men’s collegiate soccer in 2013, claiming the first NCAA Championship in program history.

With 20 veteran players, including six starters, back in the fold this season, the future is bright for Notre Dame in 2015.

“You always need experience on a team,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “The classes are spread out quite nicely, so we’ve got good experience, good seniors, people who have been there and have seen it before, done it before. The way that college teams are you graduate good players, so there are still some holes that we have to look at.

“We lost some big time players like Patrick Wall, your goalkeeper for the last three years, so I think that’s the most obvious (position) fight in the team,” Clark said. “Andrew O’Malley, a two-time captain in the middle of the back four. Andrew was actually injured last year with about 10 games left, so Matt Habrowski came in and did a good job there. Luke Mishu, another one who went to the MLS. Most of the question marks are probably on the defense, that’s where you’ve been really solid and stable the last few years, but we think we’ve got the answers.”

Roster stability is what has helped lead Notre Dame on its recent run of success. Especially when considering the conference competition that the Irish have faced in the past three seasons.

“We were lucky going to the ACC in coming from a very competitive league,” Clark said. “The BIG EAST that we left was arguably the best league in the country during our final season in it in 2012, and the ACC is a terrific conference. It’s been great that we have done well in the league in the last two years but it’s a grind, it’s a fight every year. You’ve got eight league games and you know that there will not be one game that you can pencil in at this time. Virginia was the eighth seed in the conference tournament last season and was the national champion. Clemson didn’t win the league during the regular season and won the ACC tournament.

“Every game is just so much fun because you don’t have to get the guys hyped up to play during league games,” Clark added. “I always take that as a plus, and we know it’s going to be competitive. Along with the other games we play out of conference, we have a very good schedule. When you play a schedule like that and reach the postseason tournaments, you’re not intimidated at all. That has been one of the reasons why seven of the last dozen national championships have been won by an ACC team. It’s a phenomenal record of teams that are either winning it or consistently in the final four, I don’t think any other conference comes close.”

That challenging schedule will begin immediately for Notre Dame at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic from Aug. 28-30 at Indiana. The Irish will take on No. 13 Maryland and No. 14 Indiana during the opening weekend before returning home for the annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament. A pair of teams receiving votes, South Florida and UAB, will face Notre Dame as part of the tournament field at Alumni Stadium.

“The first two weekends, the tournament in Bloomington and our own Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament, I’ve always said if we come out of those two weekends 50 percent or better we’ve done well,” Clark said. “Both weekends are so difficult, and all four teams we play will each test us in different ways. Both tournaments are fantastic for us and we’re excited.

“The boys know that with two weekends like that back-to-back, you don’t have to encourage them to work hard over the summer. They know they’re coming into really competitive soccer with no easy play-ins, and you’re in amongst the big boys. All will be amazingly difficult games but also fun to start, that’s why you play. After that start we move right on to Clemson, who I thought were very worthy tournament champions last year. It will be an exciting year for sure.”

Position-by-Position Breakdown with Head Coach Bobby Clark

“The goalkeepers are going to fight it out. The obvious ones are Brian Talcott and Chris Hubbard, the two guys who jousted a bit in the spring. They both did very well, so I don’t think anything conclusive was decided at the end of the spring. Ryan Krutz, our incoming freshman, is a good goalkeeper also.”

Central Defense
Michael Shipp would be the obvious fill-in for Luke Mishu. Michael played a few games when Max Lachowecki was injured last year at left back. He has some experience back there. The young (Mark) Mishu will also push for some time at right back. The center backs include Brandon Aubrey, Matt Habrowski, Patrick Berneski, you never know. Felicien Dumas can play as a left-sided center back and can also play in the midfield.”

“It’s great to have Max back again but we also have Danny Lojek, who we looked at in the spring as a left back and can be a wide midfield player. That will be one of the first places we look to get a bit of stability, at the back, because if you’re going to be successful your defense needs to be good.”

Central Midfield
“You lose Nick Besler, he was kind of the anchor of the midfield, but this season is going to be exciting with the other players involved. Connor Klekota, an old hand, he has been a starter there the last two years. The nice thing is the two players from the Michigan Wolves club team, Oliver Harris and Blake Townes, were both teammates with that club and will now be vying for time to see who will partner with Klekota. I would imagine we need three or four of them. Patrick Connolly did well in the spring, and of course the two young players in Sean Dedrick and Myles Brown. We had a look at them during the preseason games.”

Wide Midfield
“The wide midfield players kind of speak for themselves with Evan Panken and Patrick Hodan. You also have the older brother Kyle Dedrick, who looked promising in the spring and we got a good look at him. If he can get his confidence up he can give us very good minutes. Thomas Ueland is kind of like Hodan but a bit different, he’s a lefty that can play a similar role to Patrick out there in the wide area. Andrew Cupero has continued to get better every year, and he’s a young guy who comes to practice every day and gets better.”

“Up front, the two returning players from last year are Jeffrey Farina and Jon Gallagher, both sophomores who were highly talented as freshmen. We would like to think they are going to be even more talented as sophomores. Mark Gormley also played very well in the spring. We then look to two freshmen, Sean MacLeod and Ian Aschieris. One or both of them will have to step up to help us compete up front.”

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