1995 In Review

Frustration characterized the 1995 soccer campaign for sixth-year Notre Dame headcoach Mike Berticelli and his squad. For the second straight year, injuriesplayed havoc with the Irish lineup as many new and untested faces were asked toplay key roles during the season. In its inaugural season as a member of the BIGEAST, Notre Dame was picked in the pre-season coaches’ poll to finish third in aleague that has come to be regarded as one of the nation’s top soccerconferences.

Berticelli and his staff figured that the 1995 season would be somewhat of arebuilding year after losing 12 seniors from a team that won the school’s secondconsecutive Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament championship in its finalseason in the league and earned a second straight NCAA tournament berth. Yet,with the return of standout forward Bill Lanza, who missed the previous year withan injury and several key starters, Berticelli felt there would be enough to helphis squad gain a third consecutive NCAA tournament berth. Despite a 3-0 start,inconsistency plagued the Irish in ’95. Notre Dame had its first losing seasonsince 1990 (Berticelli’s first at the Irish helm) as Berticelli’s squad finishedwith a 9-10 mark and tied for 10th following the BIG EAST regular season with a4-7 mark and failed to qualify for the eight-team post-season championship.Lanza, who finished the year tied for team-high scoring honors with six goals and11 assists (23 points), was bothered by a hip injury that sidelined him for fivegames. Lanza was Notre Dame’s first and only BIG EAST player of the week honoreea year ago as he copped the honor following a two-goal and three-assist effortagainst DePaul in the season-opening 8-0 win for the Irish. Senior Josh Landmanwho had seen relatively little playing time (10 games) prior to the campaign wassidelined after five games with a stress fracture. Landman started three gamesand proved himself to be an offensive scoring threat for the Irish, scoring fourgoals and dishing off two assists.

Sophomore Ryan Turner was expected to join Lanza up front to form an awesomefrontline tandem. However, the second-year forward, who scored four goals anddished off seven assists n his rookie season, was never able to suit up for theIrish as he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back duringpre-season in August. As they did the previous season, the Irish struggled on theroad. For the second straight season, Notre Dame managed just one road win; thelone victory was against Northwestern, 2-1, on October 1. Notre Dame began the1995 season with three straight shutout home wins as the Irish outscored theiropponents 18-0.

Lanza and Landman were multiple-goal scorers for the Irish in the 8-0 shutout ofDePaul. The game versus the Blue Demons was Lanza first since the season openerin 1994 against Penn State. Landman scored the first two goals of his career inthat contest. Five players – four sophomores and a freshman – earned their firstcareer starts in the contest against the Blue Demons.

In a 7-0 blanking of Valparaiso, the 23rd straight win for the Irish over theCrusaders, Notre Dame exploded for six goals in the second half. Landman had hissecond straight two-goal effort in addition to adding an assist, while freshmanBen Bocklage scored the first two goals of his collegiate career in the contest.That game would signal Bocklage’s scoring ability as he finished the season tiedwith Lanza for scoring honors netting a team-high nine goals and dished off fiveassists.

The BIG EAST era in Notre Dame men’s soccer commenced on September 10 with a 3-0win over Syracuse. Behind a goal and two assists by Lanza, Notre Dame ran itsrecord to 3-0. Bocklage got the Irish on the board first as he dove and headedin a Lanza assist 20:22 into the contest for his third goal in two games. Lanzagave the Irish a 2-0 advantage less than 15 seconds later as he stole anOrangemen pass and maneuvered his way through a host of Syracuse defenders.Junior midfielder Chris Mathis tallied the final Irish score with less than fiveminutes to play in the contest off of Lanza’s second assist of the game.Following the victory, Notre Dame jumped into the Intercollegiate SoccerAssociation of America (ISAA) rankings as the Irish were sixth in the poll -highest ranking in school history. However, one of the team’s toughest contestsloomed just five days away as the Irish faced seventh-ranked Rutgers inPiscataway, N.J. Before a Rutgers Stadium regular season record crowd of 5,636spectators, the Irish shocked the Scarlet Knights early on by jumping out to a2-0 advantage. Chris Mathis opened up the scoring for Notre Dame 7:15 into thecontest off an assist from Lanza. Two minutes later, Tony Capasso took a Landmanfeed and broke free to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead 9:21 into the game. Less thantwo minutes later, Rutgers got its first goal of the game as the Scarlet Knightsscored twice before the half and three times in the second for a final 5-2victory, handing Notre Dame its first loss of the season.

Following that loss the Irish would go on to lose their next three contests.After a 4-1 setback at Seton Hall, Notre Dame dropped two overtime decisions,4-2 to fifth-ranked Indiana and 3-2 to BIG EAST rival . The Irish jumped out toa 2-0 lead over the Hoosiers 13:22 into the contest on goals by Lanza andBocklage, before Indiana came back to tie the contest at the 65:51 mark. Indianascored the game-winning goal 5:35 into the first overtime session. Against BostonCollege, Kontantin Koloskov netted both of Notre Dame’s two goals in the firsthalf. The Irish held the Eagles with just one goal until 34 seconds left in thecontest when Notre Dame defender Matt Zimmer fouled a Boston College player inthe penalty box. After converting on the penalty kick to send the game intoovertime, the Eagles scored the game winner 8:19 into the first extra 15-minutesession.

Notre Dame won four of its next five games, including two BIG EAST decisions overGeorgetown (3-2) and Providence 1-0. Against the Hoyas, Bocklage and Mathis eachhad a goal and an assist in the contest. After falling behind 1-0 to Georgetown,Capasso tied the score 1-1 at 40:40 when he drilled a Koloskov pass into thenet. Mathis gave the Irish a 2-1 lead when he knocked in a shot from the top ofthe box off a Bocklage assist at the 49:28. Bocklage put Notre Dame up 3-1 whenhe connected from the top of the box. Freshman goalie Greg Velho was solid inthe net as he came up with eight saves in the contest. In the victory over theFriars, Bocklage tallied the contest’s only goal 3:38 into the second half. NotreDame outshot Providence 22-9, but PC’s goalkeeper was outstanding as he made 12saves.

With a 7-5 mark overall and 3-3 in league play, the Irish headed into a toughthree-game road stretch that would determine their fate in qualifying for the BIGEAST tournament. Unforturnately, the road trip did not improve Notre Dame’schances in making the tournament as the Irish lost all three contests. A 4-0 winover Western Michigan halted a three-game slide, but a more important contest onthe road at Connecticut loomed. A win over the Huskies would still keep NotreDame’s hopes for berth in the BIG EAST championship alive. The Irish, however,could not rise to the occassion dropping a 4-0 decision. It was their fouthstraight BIG EAST loss and the third time in the last five games that they wereshut out. Notre Dame earned its final victory of the 1995 campaign with a 4-1decision over Villanova in the home finale. The win marked the 250th for headcoach Mike Berticelli in his 20th season at the collegiate ranks. A 3-0 loss toeventual national champion, Wisconsin ended the Notre Dame season.

Although there were few bright spots for the Irish during the season a number ofindividuals played key roles. Koloskov proved to be one of the team’s mostconsistent players as he finished with seven goals and seven assists. Capassohad his best offensive season with eight goals and two assists. Mathis alsoproved to be a threat offensively as he scored six goals and dished off fiveassists. Defensively, the Irish were somewhat inexperienced and that showed inkey games. Junior Brian Engesser, however, was a stalwart in the backfield. Thebackbone of the Notre Dame defense the past two years, the 1995 team MVP hasstarted all 63 games he has played in during his career. He missed the firstgame of his career on October 26 against Western Michigan after being issued hisfifth yellow card in the previous game. Velho, Notre Dame’s rookie goalie, playedwell in registering a 6-4 record. He started 10 of the 14 games he played. Velhogave up 18 goals and had a 1.74 goals against average. While making a team-high52 saves, he registered a .743 save percentage. The 1995 season proved to be abitter disappointment for the coaches and players, especially as the Irishembarked upon their first season in the BIG EAST. But it is a feeling thatlingered long into the winter and spring. Hopefully, the memories of defeat willbe catayst for success in 1996.