Dec. 11, 2003
The University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team placed four players on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Great Lakes regional team, while head coach Bobby Clark was named the regional coach of the year on Thursday, Dec. 11.
Notre Dame finished the season 16-3-4, claimed its first BIG EAST title since 1995 and finished the regular season ranked third in the nation. The Irish also appeared in the NCAA Championship Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history. The team posted some impressive numbers, including 13 shut outs and eight consecutive wins before its elimination loss in the NCAA tournament to Michigan on penalty kicks.
Clark’s regional award is the fourth of his career and first at Notre Dame. While a head coach at Dartmouth he earned regional honors in ’90 and ’92, while adding a third regional award at Stanford in ’97. Clark ended his third year for the Irish in 2003 leading the team to 16 wins – the most the 1988 team won 17 matches.
Clark’s leadership this season was showcased by his ability to juggle his line up at crucial times. Starting central defender Dale Rellas was sidelined just one game into the season, while upstart freshman Ryan Miller was lost in the preseason to an injury. The line up switches worked perfectly, however, as the Irish enjoyed the most successful year in the program’s history.
Notre Dame defeated two teams that will play in the NCAA College Cup this weekend – St. John’s and Indiana. The Irish bested the Red Storm 2-0 in the BIG EAST Championship and knocked off Indiana 1-0 in overtime on Sept. 18. In all, Clark led Notre Dame to six wins over ranked teams during the 2003 season.
Senior forward Justin Detter and junior goalkeeper Chris Sawyer earned first team all-great lakes regional accolades as well. Teammates junior defender Kevin Goldthwaite and junior defender Jack Stewart landed on the third team.
Detter capped off his season by earning first-team all-BIG EAST honors and leading the Irish in scoring during the postseason. He ended up with five goals in his last five games and was named the BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Offensive Player. Detter’s 14 goals and 33 points (five assists) led the team and were career highs for the former midfielder -turned-offensive-force. He also provided four game-winning goals for the Irish in ’03 and his five points (two goals, one assist) against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the second round of the NCAA Championship set a school record. His regional award is the fourth of his career after earning second team honors in ’01 and ’02, with third team honors in ’00.
Sawyer was spectacular in goal for Notre Dame the entire season. His 12 shut outs ranked first in the BIG EAST Conference and helped the Colorado native earn the conference’s goalkeeper of the year award. His three shut outs during the BIG EAST Championship also earned him the tournament Most Outstanding Defensive Player award. After a tough 5-2 loss to Rutgers on Oct. 11, Sawyer completely shut down the opposing offenses he faced, holding the rest of Notre Dame’s 11 opponents to one or zero goals – including a streak of five shut outs.
In all, Sawyer allowed 16 goals, eight of which came in two games (vs. St. John’s during the regular season and Rutgers).
Both Detter and Sawyer will move ahead for All-America consideration, to be announced next week. They hope to become Notre Dame’s first All-Americans since Tony Capasso earned third team honors in 1996.
Goldthwaite joined Sawyer and Stewart in earning all-regional honors for the first time. The junior left side defender led the team in assists with nine and his lone goal of the season was an important one – the game winner in double overtime vs. #19 Indiana. Utilized as both an attacker and defender, Goldthwaite played practically every minute of each game this season and is a key catalyst with the ball on the team’s set pieces.
Both Goldthwaite and Stewart helped Notre Dame’s defense dominate its opponents in 2003, allowing one or zero goals in 21 of 23 games. Stewart patrolled the middle of the defense for the Irish, moving back after Rellas’ injury forced a line up change. All Stewart did with move was establish himself as one of the best central defenders in the nation. Dominating in the air and dangerous when moving ahead to attack, Stewart played a key role in Notre Dame’s 0.67 goals-against average. He ended the season with two points, scoring a goal at Syracuse.
With the 2003 season over, the Irish can look forward to the 2004 season with renewed confidence with three of its four regional awardwinners returning to action.