Head coach Bobby Clark has the Irish ranked nationally once again in 2007. (Photo by Matt Cashore)

Irish To Face New Mexico In Exhibition Match That Benefits Grassroot Soccer

Aug. 18, 2005

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame men’s soccer team will take to the field for the first time during the 2005 season on Monday, Aug. 22 as they host New Mexico in an exhibition match at 7:00 p.m. at Alumni Field. The contest is a marquee match-up as the Lobos are ranked eighth and the Irish 16th in the NSCAA/adidas preseason top-25 poll. Admission to the match is one dollar with all proceeds benefiting Grassroot Soccer, an international AIDS awareness and education organization that reaches youth in Africa through soccer clinics. Further donations are welcome.

A Notre Dame soccer alumnus, who wishes to remain anonymous, will match the donations dollar-for-dollar just as he did last year. Head coach Bobby Clark and the Notre Dame men’s soccer camp will also match the donations dollar-for-dollar for this year’s game.

Notre Dame is coming off the program’s first-ever BIG EAST regular-season title as the Irish posted a 13-3-3 mark, which led to them garnering the fifth-seed in the NCAA tournament. Clark and his staff collected the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year award for their efforts in guiding the team to another solid campaign. The Irish lost an accomplished five-man class to graduation from last season’s team, yet Clark welcomes back a veteran group that will keep Notre Dame on course.

Returning to the 2005 squad are two preseason all-BIG EAST selections in junior tri-captain Greg Dalby (Poway, Calif./Poway) and his classmate Ian Etherington (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral). Dalby will look to anchor the Irish midfield, while Etherington can play either in the midfield or at the forward position. Etherington was the team’s second-leading scorer in 2004 with three goals and a team-high five assists.

Also coming back is junior Justin McGeeney (Ames, Iowa/Ames), the team’s leading scorer in 2004. As a sophomore last season, McGeeney was the team’s co-leader in goals with five and also dished out two assists. The junior forward is fresh of capturing a national championship with his PDL team, the Des Moines Menace on Saturday, Aug. 13 in El Paso, Texas. Tying McGeeney with five goals during the 2004 campaign was Tony Megna (Middleton, Wis./Middleton), who returns for his senior season. The Irish will also welcome in a very talented seven-man freshman class that was rated 18th nationally by College Soccer News.

New Mexico advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship last season. The Lobos return first-team All-American Jeff Rowland, a senior forward that collected 45 points on 19 goals and seven assists last season. Senior midfielder Lance Watson will also be a valuable member to the Lobos as he was a first-team all-conference player in 2004 as he registered eight goals and four assists.

This match features many strong ties to the Grassroot Soccer cause beginning with Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark. Clark’s son, Tommy Clark, MD, is the Executive Director and Founder of Grassroot Soccer and his other son, Jamie, is an assistant coach at New Mexico. Tommy and Jamie spent a year in Zimbabwe, while Bobby coached the Bulawayo Highlanders of the Zimbabwe Super League. Tommy would go on to play for the Highlanders and became quite aware of the disturbing situation at hand with the HIV epidemic in Africa.

The average life expectancy has dropped from 61 to 33 years since 1990, and there are now one million children in Zimbabwe who have been orphaned due to AIDS-related deaths. That information means one in five Zimbabwean children is an orphan as a result of the HIV/AIDS. There is no sign of these figures changing as 30% of pregnant women in Zimbabwe tested positive for HIV, which will lead to the future loss of their lives as well as that of their child.

While working towards a MD in pediatrics in the United States, Tommy realized he did not want to leave behind the alarming situation in Africa. He desired to be part of a solution to help his friends in Zimbabwe and beyond by using soccer as a tool. Tommy has organized the movement that uses soccer as a way to reach youth not only in Zimbabwe but across the globe. Soccer clinics are held with pro players, coaches and youth players getting the message out about healthy behavior and the risks of HIV.

“It’s great that a sport like soccer can really reach around the world in a positive way like this,” states Bobby Clark. “AIDS is a huge curse, especially in Africa. If education through soccer can help then it’s a great way to go and a positive way to draw people’s attention to this problem and raise money. Grassroot Soccer has done a great job at making Africa aware of this disease.”

Another Fighting Irish connection to Zimbabwe is Methembe Ndlovu, a native of Zimbabwe who now serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the Fighting Irish along with coaching the Indiana Invaders of the United States Soccer League. He recently garnered the Premier Development League Coach of the Year award. Bobby Clark brought Ndlovu over to the United States from his native country in 1993 to study at Dartmouth.

Luke Boughen, an Irish midfielder from 2001-04, is starting his first year with the Grassroot program and he will travel the United States to raise money for one year before heading over to Africa. He is not the only one who has taken Bobby Clark’s lead in helping the cause. Some members of Clark’s teams at Stanford, where he coached from 1996-2000, have also made the trek overseas to assist with Grassroot Soccer.

“Dartmouth wanted to help and New Mexico has also supported the situation and that is where Tommy (Clark) did his residency,” said Bobby Clark, who coached at Dartmouth prior to his stint at Stanford and his arrival at Notre Dame. “Stanford is where Jamie (Clark) went to school and they have been very supportive as well. Then I wanted to get Notre Dame involved once I came here. We are looking to help alleviate the situation. It’s an extremely worthy cause and we are happy to do anything we can. Everyone who gives a dollar at the game will really help to try and stop this curse.”

New Mexico has held free soccer clinics to help advance the cause of Grassroot Soccer. The Lobos are looking forward to helping Grassroot Soccer and squaring off against the Fighting Irish.

“Jamie (Clark) is really involved in the Grassroot Soccer program here locally,” says New Mexico head coach Jeremy Fishbein. “We have had some fundraisers here to collect equipment and our program is always looking to help the cause in any capacity. This will also be a great opportunity for our team to see where we stand in the preseason by playing Notre Dame. We’ll be able to give the new players some time. Overall the game will be a win-win situation for everyone.”

For more information on Grassroot Soccer, log on to grassrootsoccer.org.

To stay up to date on the 2005 Notre Dame men’s soccer season along with all of the Fighting Irish varsity sports, please log on to und.com or call the official Notre Dame athletics hotline at (574) 631-3000.