Aug. 5, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” On the verge of the opening of fall camp, signaling the true beginning of the 2016 season for the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer program, the first week of August has been action packed as the No. 9 Irish (11-5-6 in 2015) prepare to return to the pitch. One of the most noteworthy announcements approaching camp was the official unveiling of the new Notre Dame team captains. Defenders Matt Habrowski and Michael Shipp join midfielder Evan Panken as the core Irish leadership entering the new season.
“Now is the time when the new squad comes together,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “It’s a new team. I think that’s one of the great things about college soccer and college sports in general, you never get two years the same. Due to graduation, and fortunately all of our kids do graduate, you get a new group every year and this is when they really come together. I always say our spring season is the first part of preseason, but this is when our new captains start to take control.
“We have three really good captains with two returning seniors, lads that have already graduated and are two pre-Med guys, Michael Shipp and Evan Panken,” Clark added. “Both are back for their fifth year. Then there is also rising senior Matt Habrowski. It’s an exciting time, they are guys who have been stalwarts for a few years and all bring something different. The way we do captains is that we (coaches) don’t choose them, I prefer to let the players choose, and they always get it right. If you had said to me who would be the three guys for this year, I think we have some great younger guys coming through but for this year I would have picked these three guys because you have different types.”
Panken is the most experienced of the three Notre Dame captains at the varsity level, starting the past 67 contests in the Irish midfield dating back to 2013. He has scored 11 career goals and added 16 assists (38 points) thus far to his collegiate account, establishing career-highs in assists (9) and total minutes played (2,082) last season. Panken was also a 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) All-Academic team selection, and was one of 23 Notre Dame men’s soccer players named to this past year’s ACC Academic Honor Roll.
“Panken is a real warrior out there,” Clark said. “He is very committed, possibly our hardest worker. We do the GPS units on the players at practice and in games, and there’s no question that Evan runs the furthest both at practice and in games. He has a tremendous work ethic, and he brings that as a real competitor.”
Shipp enters his second season as a defensive starter after earning a Starting XI nod at right back in all 22 Notre Dame games in 2015. Shipp scored his first two career goals and added one assist on the Irish attack, helping to preserve 10 combined shutouts along with the Notre Dame back line. He joined Panken as a dual member of the ACC All-Academic team and as a selection for the ACC Academic Honor Roll last season.
“It has been an honor to be a part of this program and to lead this team for my final season,” Shipp said. “We’re planning to build off the strong leadership we’ve had in the past and incorporate our unique strengths and personalities. With the talent and experience on this team, I have no doubt we can compete for another national championship this year.”
“Michael Shipp is also a fifth-year, but Michael is the opposite (of Panken),” Clark said. “Michael is a hard worker, too, but he is a quiet kid. He doesn’t say (much) but does everything correctly. He is just a great role model to the younger guys, as they both are, but Michael is the quiet one that does it by example, completely.”
Habrowski carries two years of eligibility into his senior campaign after emerging as a starting fullback for the Irish in 2015. Habrowski made 17 starts in the central defense and was an integral part of eight team shutouts. On offense, he notably contributed the game-winning goal in a 1-0 shutout of No. 9 Clemson on Sept. 12 to go along with an assist. Habrowski was also an ACC Academic Honor Roll recipient along with his fellow tri-captains.
“It’s an honor being selected as captain to this team,” Habrowski said. “Everyone is excited for the season to start after all the hard work we have put in this summer and throughout the spring. The challenges for the three captains will be to build on what the team accomplished last year. So long as we do everything we can to guide the team in a consistent, positive manner and leave knowing we did everything possible to get the team to a better point than when it began, we can all be proud of the job we’ve done.”
“Matt has got a go at everything,” Clark said. “He is not quiet and is a very good speaker, he is a good example and does all the right things. The nice thing is that all three captains are great students. They all bring a little bit different to the table, and obviously they would not have been chosen by their teammates if they hadn’t gotten the respect. Respect is tremendous and you can’t force respect, you have to earn it. These three guys have earned the respect of their teammates and the coaching staff.”
Notre Dame opens its 2016 practice slate on Aug. 10, with the regular season schedule set to commence on Aug. 26 against UC Irvine as part of the annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament at Alumni Stadium.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.