February 3, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team signed three outstanding high school players to National Letters of Intent today. Head Coach Mike Berticelli has announced that defender Justin Ratcliffe (Miami, Fla.), a member of the Under-18 National Team; goalkeeper Greg Tait (Fayetteville, N.Y.), one of the nation’s top high school goalkeeping prospects, and midfielder Paul Rodgriguez (San Antonio, Tex.) will be members of Notre Dame Class of 2003.
“We are extremely excited about having these three players join our program next season,” says Berticelli, who will be entering his 10th season with the Irish in 1999. “This is a very talented group that fills our needs. With some of our graduation losses, we had certain gaps to fill and I think we’ve done it by signing Justin, Greg and Paul.”
Ratcliffe, a 5-11, 155-lb. defender, has been a three-year starter at American High School in Miami. A member of the Under-18 National Team, has helped his team to a 22-1-2 record this season. His squad, currently ranked first in the state, has given up just 12 goals all season and recorded 14 shutouts.
As a junior, Ratcliffe garnered first-team all-state and all-city honors. American finished the 1998 campaign (played in the spring) with a 31-1 mark; its lone loss of the season was in the state semifinals. A year ago his team was ranked number one nationally and in the state.
He has played for the Miami Strike Force Club team since the age of 12 and has helped the squad to the national semifinals on numerous occasions.
“The addition of Justin is going to help us out defensively in a number of ways,” Berticelli says. “He is an extremely versatile player who is both sound technically and tactically.
“Justin can play anywhere in the backfield and brings a great deal of maturity to our program because of the experiences he has had with the National Team both here in the United States and abroad.”
With the loss of four-year starter Greg Velho, Tait will have the opportunity to challenge for the starting job in goal immediately. A two-year starter at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y., the 6-3, 180-lb goalkeeper, was MVP of his team this season after leading them to a 21-1-1 mark and registering 150 saves. His squad won the sectional championship in 1998 before losing in the regional tournament. CBA was ranked among the top six teams in the state throughout the season.
A two-time all-state and all-Central New York region selection, Tait played on the varsity for five years, and in a four-year span, helped his team compile a 106-4-4 record.
A member of the Syracuse Blitz Club team since 1989, he helped that squad to a runner-up finish at the 1998 Indoor National Tournament. Tait also has considerable experience with the Olympic Developmental Program and has been the starting goalkeeper on the East Regional team since 1996. He has earned national team tryouts on two occasions. In 1998, Tait led his team to a first-place finish at the Tourni Int’l Cadets de Hauts-de-Seine in Paris France.
“Greg has tremendous potential and is an extremely talented player. I consider him one of the top three senior high school goalkeepers in the country,” Berticelli says. In the long tradition of having four-year starters in goal, he has the ability and potential to challenge for that spot immediately. Greg’s greatest assets are his quickness and tremendous work ethic.”
Like Ratcliffe and Tait, Rodriguez fills specific needs for the Irish in the midfield. A three-year starter at Winston Churchill High School, the 5-9, 160-lb midfielder led his team to the 1998 Texas state championship. His squad currently is 7-2-1 on the season and he has six goals and five assists. Rodriguez was named MVP of the North Loop Tournament.
As a junior, he was a first-team all-region, all-city and all-district selection and earned all-tournament honors at the ’98 state championship. Rodriguez led Winston Churchill in scoring in both his junior and sophomore seasons. He had 18 goals and dished 12 assists en route to earning San Antonio Express Player of the Year honors.
Rodriguez has played for the Hammers Soccer Club team for two years and been part of the state ODP team for three years.
“I consider Paul a real sleeper in this year’s recruiting class,” Berticelli says. “He was highly recruited an immediate impact player by a number of top schools, and we feel very fortunate that he chose to attend Notre Dame. Paul is a technically refined player with great vision on the field and excellent passing skills. He handles himself well under pressure, and we expect him to contribute in the midfield for us right away.”