Notre Dame 2016 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School - Notre Dame
Conference - Atlantic Coast Conference
Coach - Bobby Clark (16th Season)

Background - Under the leadership of Bobby Clark Notre Dame has become one of the most consistently successful teams in the country. In 2015 the Irish were 11-5-6 overall with a 4-2-2 mark in conference play.  They had signature wins over Indiana, Clemson, Michigan State, Virginia and Wake Forest and were awarded the number seven seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Defender Max Lachowecki and midfielder Patrick Hodan were named to the All-ACC Second Team in 2015 while forward Jon Gallagher was named to the Third Team. The trio was also named to the NSCAA All-South Region Second Team in 2015.

Notre Dame has earned a total of eighteen invites to the NCAA Tournament. The winning tradition and consistency of the program is reflected in the fact that during the fifteen years that Clark has been at the helm the Irish have made fourteen appearances in the NCAA Tourney, earned a national seed ten times, and won the program's first National Championship in 2013 with a 17-1-6 overall record. In addition, the Irish have been ranked in the final NSCAA and College Soccer News season ending polls in thirteen of the last fifteen seasons.   

Notre Dame moved from the Big East Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. They hit the ground running in the ACC winning a share of the regular-season championship in 2013 and the outright ACC regular-season championship in 2014. 

Offense -  Juniors Jon Gallagher (9g, 3a) and Jeffrey Farina (3g, 5a) headline a solid contingent of returning forwards whose scoring ability is proven. Senior Mark Gormley (3g, 0a) and sophomore Thomas Ueland (4g,0a) who could also be utilized as a wide midfielder also return to add an additional presence to the offense.

The graduation of midfielders Patrick Hoden (3g, 6a) who was a three-time All-ACC selection and midfielder Connor Klekota (2g, 1a) who was a starter for three seasons creates a void that must be filled in the midfield. Returning midfielders who should figure prominently in the attack in 2015 include fifth-year senior Evan Panken (2g, 9a) and junior Blake Townes (0g, 3a). Senior Patrick Connolly and junior Kyle Dedrick are among other returning midfielders who will seek to play a greater role in 2016. Freshman midfielder Tommy McCabe who enrolled prior to the start of the 2016 spring semester is among several members of the recruiting class who will likely compete for playing time right away.  

Defense - Notre Dame held a very competitive slate of opponents to a total of only nineteen goals last year. They will enter the 2016 campaign without the services of fifth-year senior and team captain Max Lachowecki (3g, 5a). Lachowecki was a four-year starter and contributor on both sides of the ball whose departure leaves some big shoes to fill.

On the plus side a very dependable stable of talented and experienced backs are slated to return. Fifth-year senior Michael Shipp (2g, 1a) and senior Brandon Aubrey (1g, 1a) return to anchor the backline. Seniors Matt Habrowski (1g, 1a) and Mark Mishu and junior Patrick Berneski (1g, 0a) round out a backline that should be a team strength.

Senior Chris Hubbard who was the starter in goal last year returns between the pipes to add stability and leadership to the defense. In 2015, Hubbard had a 0.82 goals against average and recorded eight shutouts. 

Newcomers - Four Star Recruiting Class  

Coach Clark stated, "I think this signing class is a solid group, and as I always say I will be able to better tell in three years how good they really are."  He added, "Each player collectively, is a good fit for Notre Dame in many ways." 

Jack Casey - Midfielder - Morristown, New Jersey - The Pingry School. Casey played for the Players Development Academy. He was a Gatorade State Player of the Year nominee.  All-State First Team. All-Conference First Team. 

Nick Cullen - Midfielder - Colorado Springs, Colorado - Pine Creek High School - Played for Real Colorado since 2012. ODP Region IV player pool. Played for Colorado Rush from 2010 through 2012.

Spencer Farina - Forward - Wilmette, Illinois - New Trier Township HIgh School - Played for Chicago Magic PSG since 2013. . All-Conference and All-Secton selection.

Senan Farrelly - Defender - Havertown, Pennsylvania - The Haverford School - Played for Continental FC. Team captain of Continental FC. 

Tommy McCabe - Midfielder - South Orange, New Jersey - IMG Academy - Played for Players Development Academy. Three years in the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program. Two-time NSCAA Youth All-American. 

John Rea - Forward - Tempe, Arizona - Corona del Sol High School - Played for SC del Sol. Named to the Arizona Soccer Showcase Best XI. Played at Montverde Academy as a junior. 

Duncan Turnbull - Goalkeeper - Geneva, Illinois - Geneva High School - Played for Socers FC Chicago. Had 1.11 gaa in high school. All-Section. All-Conference. Team captain of Sockers FC. 

Prognosis for 2016 -  The potential for another very successful season is certainly there for Notre Dame in 2016. The biggest question mark will be how quickly and effectively the Irish are able to fill the gap that exists due to the departure of midfielders Patrick Hodan and Connor Klekota and back Mac Lachowecki. The good news in that regard is that Notre Dame has consistently shown the ability to replace key personnel without taking a step back.

A solid contingent of returning players including eight starters led up-top by Jon Gallagher, in the midfield by Evan Planken, in the back by Michael Shipp and in goal by Chris Hubbard and a fresh crop of incoming freshman talent will give Clark a lot to work with. In addition, its a testiment to Clark that team chemistry always seems to be a plus at Notre Dame.

Expect the Irish to contend for another ACC crown and another seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2016.  

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