July 24, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — In its quest to defend the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular-season championship and remain at the top of one of the most competitive leagues in the collegiate game, the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team will rely on strong leadership from its corps of captains in 2015. Patrick Hodan, Connor Klekota and Max Lachowecki look to provide that senior direction as Fighting Irish tri-captains for the upcoming Notre Dame season.
“They all bring something different, it’s a really nice spread of captains,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “We always let the players pick the captains. Everybody (different teams) does it different ways, but I’ve always liked to let the players pick. The nice thing for me is that they nearly always pick the players that the coaches would want, and this year is a nice spread.”
All three captains have been key members of the current run of success enjoyed by Notre Dame soccer, which includes a 46-10-11 (.769) record since 2012. Along with consecutive ACC regular-season championships, the Fighting Irish have also claimed the 2012 BIG EAST Conference tournament crown and the 2013 NCAA Championship title, the first national championship in program history, in that span.
Lachowecki is the most experienced player in the trio in terms of career starts, competing as a member of Notre Dame’s starting 11 in 63 matches since 2012. He has scored five goals and added four assists (14 points) as a defender for the Fighting Irish, with two game-winning goals to his credit. Behind Lachowecki’s leadership on the back line last season, Notre Dame notched six team shutouts during the 2015 campaign.
Lachowecki was previously named to the BIG EAST Conference all-rookie team and Soccer America all-freshman team in 2012, and is a three-time monogram winner.
“You have Max, a returning fifth-year player who will be in his fourth year starting,” Clark said. “He’s had three great years and I am hoping this will be a fourth great year. He is a very good athlete but he also is a personality, he is a very funny guy. He is serious about his soccer and is very competitive and serious on the field, but he has a light side to him.
“I think that is really good for the locker room, he makes people laugh easily and it is good to have someone bring that lighter side,” Clark added. “He is one of our most competitive players and if you know him you can see the light side, but once he’s on the field you’ve got a competitor.”
Klekota has been a strong performer in the Notre Dame midfield over the past two seasons, scoring two goals and adding seven assists in 44 career appearances (28 starts). He played in 20 Fighting Irish contests in 2014, notching one goal and adding a career-high four assists.
Klekota was a recipient of the 2015 Francis Patrick O’Connor Award at the Notre Dame end of the year O.S.C.A.R.S. ceremony, which honors male and female student-athletes who best display the total embodiment of the true spirit of Notre Dame as exemplified by their contributions to their respective teams.
“Connor is a driven kid, and he loves his sport,” Clark said. “He wants to be a coach, and he’ll be a very good coach one day. It’s great when one of your captains is a coach because he is that coach on the field, he is always thinking. Connor will never come to a practice and not be ready to play, he’s one of the kids you love to have on your squad because he comes to play every day. He competes very hard and has a good engine, he’s a worker. Nobody is going to out-work him, and it’s nice to have a really good role model for the players under him.”
Hodan returns for his senior season after a standout performance as a junior, leading all Notre Dame players with nine goals and 21 points in 21 matches (12 starts). Hodan was named the 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, was a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-America first team choice, and was tabbed to the Capital One Academic All-America first team.
Hodan is Notre Dame’s active leader with 26 goals and 65 points from his midfield position, and has represented the Fighting Irish on all-ACC teams (second team in 2013, first team in 2014) during Notre Dame’s first two seasons as a conference member.
“Patrick is a special player, and you need special players to be a special team,” Clark said. “He is very cerebral, both on and off the field, he’s always thinking. Any decisions within the team and among the players, he will give very good input. Patrick will be that cerebral player that works out all of the angles.
“The nice thing about the captains is that they all get along well,” Clark added. “It’s as Jack Swarbrick says, `Teams that like each other usually play well together.’ This is a group of guys, the captains and the whole team, that really like one another. That is one of the things that we really have in our favor going into the new season.”
Notre Dame opens the 2015 regular season on Aug. 28 at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Indiana. The Fighting Irish host the annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament Sept. 4-6 at Alumni Stadium to begin their home slate.
— Tony Jones, Athletics Communications Assistant