Aug. 19, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The third-ranked Notre Dame men’s soccer team will open its 2008 preseason play with an exhibition match at New Mexico on Wednesday, Aug. 20 at the UNM Soccer Complex. Game time is slated for 7:00 p.m. (MT). Notre Dame is ranked third in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll, while New Mexico is 19th in the College Soccer News rankings. The match can be followed via Gametracker on und.com.
This will mark the third time the Irish and Lobos have squared off in exhibition play. Last season, Notre Dame topped New Mexico, 3-0, at the National Soccer Festival in Ft. Wayne, Ind. The Irish and Lobos played to a 1-1 tie during the 2005 preseason. In the only meeting in regular-season play, Notre Dame downed New Mexico, 2-0, on Sept. 1, 2000 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Notre Dame is coming off a 14-5-5 campaign and its second straight appearance in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championships. The Irish posted a record of 7-0-4 in conference play and tied Connecticut for a share of the BIG EAST Blue Division title. Notre Dame was the only BIG EAST squad to go undefeated in league action.
The Irish garnered the No. 10 seed and a first-round bye in the 2007 NCAA Championships. Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the second straight season after knocking off Oakland, 2-1, in the second round and then taking down No. 7 Santa Clara, 2-0, in the Round of 16. The Fighting Irish fell at eventual national champion Wake Forest, 1-0, in overtime during the quarterfinals.
Seven starters and 14 letter-winners return for Notre Dame. The Irish were recently picked to finish second in the BIG EAST Blue Division by the league’s head coaches. Senior defender Matt Besler (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West) was named to the all-BIG EAST Preseason Team. Besler is one of three returning student-athletes that garnered all-conference recognition last season for Notre Dame. He was a second-team pick, while fellow senior Jack Traynor (St. Charles, Mo./Francis Howell North), a defender, was a third-team selection. Sophomore midfielder Matt Armstrong (Phoenix, Ariz./North Canyon) copped honorable-mention distinction as a rookie.
Alex Yoshinaga (San Diego, Calif./Granite Hills), a fifth-year senior, is the top returning scorer for the Irish. Last season, Yoshinaga tallied nine points on three goals and three assists. Bobby Clark is entering his eighth season at the helm of the Irish program. He boasts a 94-38-20 (.684) record during his Notre Dame tenure.
New Mexico went 12-5-2 one year ago and fell to UCLA, 1-0, in the first round of the NCAA Championships. The Lobos return eight starters and five of their top six scorers. Midfielder Chris Wright, the 2007 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year, has led the team in scoring each of the last two seasons. He was the league leader in points last year with 12 goals and four assists. Jeremy Fishbein is in his seventh season as head coach at New Mexico.
Notre Dame will play its second and final exhibition game of the 2008 preseason on Monday, Aug. 25 against Illinois-Chicago at Alumni Field at 7:00 p.m. (ET). All proceeds from the match against the Flames will benefit Grassroot Soccer, an international AIDS awareness and education organization that reaches youth in Africa through soccer clinics. Admission to the contest is $1. Further donations are welcome.