Aug. 19, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The No. 12 Notre Dame men’s soccer team will face Northern Illinois in exhibition action on Thursday, Aug. 20 in DeKalb, Ill. There will be two matches with the first taking place at 10:00 a.m. (CT). The second match is slated to begin at 5:00 p.m. (CT).
“We’ll basically have two separate teams with a couple guys playing in both,” says Irish head coach Bobby Clark. “We’ll try to get most of the younger players in there in the first game. It’ll be good to get them in uniform and get them some playing time. It’ll give us a chance to get a feel for them. We’ll also have a couple of the veteran guys play in that game as well. Most of the older guys will play in the second game.”
The Fighting Irish return eight starters from last season’s squad that posted a 12-7-2 record, including a 7-2-2 conference mark en route to capturing the BIG EAST Blue Division title. Notre Dame brings back every starter in the attack and midfield units.
Leading the offensive charge will be senior forward Bright Dike (Edmond, Okla./Edmond North), who led the BIG EAST in goals (12) and points (29) last season and garnered first-team all-BIG EAST accolades. Dike recently was named the 2009 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year.
Fellow senior Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas), a midfielder, earned second-team all-league honors in 2008 after tallying eight goals and five assists. Jeb Brovsky (Lakewood, Colo./Green Mountain), a junior midfielder/forward, was a third-team all-BIG EAST pick last season as he notched five goals and a team-best six assists.
Thomas, who is one of four team captains, will pair up with junior Matt Armstrong (Phoenix, Ariz./North Canyon) to make up one of the top central midfield units in the nation. Armstrong has started every match during the first two seasons of his Fighting Irish career.
Occupying the wide areas of the midfield will be senior captains Dave Donohue (Reading, Mass./Cushing Academy) and Justin Morrow (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius). Last season, Donohue tallied five goals and five assists, while Morrow had two goals and four assists.
Sophomore Aaron Maund (Dorchester, Mass./The Roxbury Latin School) returns to the backline after having played every minute there during his rookie campaign. Cory Rellas (Plano, Texas/Plano West), who is entering his fifth season in an Irish uniform, is back and healthy after missing most of last season with a knee injury. That duo will most likely make up the Notre Dame central defense. Rellas also will serve as a team captain.
Fifth-year senior Andrew Quinn (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) and Philip Tuttle (Hooksett, N.H./Brewster Academy) give the Fighting Irish a valuable one-two punch in goal. Quinn expects to be fully recovered from a shoulder injury that made him miss the final four games of the 2008 campaign. While Quinn missed those matches, Tuttle stepped in and picked up some key experience. Quinn boasts a career record of 12-6-3 and a 0.99 goals-against average. Tuttle, a senior, is 2-3-0 with a 1.29 goals-against average.
The Irish will welcome in a talented six-man class that was ranked ninth by College Soccer News. Among the crop is midfielder Dillon Powers (Plano, Texas/Plano Senior), who was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Powers also was named the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Co-Player of the Year.
Notre Dame is ranked 12th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll, while the Irish are 16th according to College Soccer News. The Fighting Irish were picked to win their third straight BIG EAST Blue Division title in a preseason vote by the league’s head coaches. Dike and Thomas were named to the conference’s all-preseason squad.
Northern Illinois notched an 11-6-4 record last season, which included a 4-1-1 mark in the Mid-American Conference. The Huskies bring back nine starters and 17 letterwinners from one season ago.
“The good and the bad thing about an exhibition match is that the result doesn’t really matter,” adds Clark. “It’s more important how you play. I feel we have a good returning group and it’ll be good to get them on the field and playing together.”
The Fighting Irish will conclude its exhibition schedule with a home tilt against Northwestern on Monday, Aug. 24. Game time is slated for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at Alumni Field.
Notre Dame opens the 2009 campaign at home in its new state-of-the-art Alumni Stadium against Michigan on Tuesday, Sept. 1. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET). Ticket information for the entire 2009 Fighting Irish men’s soccer season can be found at und.com/tickets or by calling the Notre Dame ticket office at (574) 631-7356.