Notre Dame – Four And A Half Star Recruiting Class – The Fighting Irish were 17-4-1 last year, they won the Big East Tournament, and they were awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. They topped Michigan State and then fell to Indiana 2-1 in double-overtime in the third round of the NCAA Tourney.
Notre Dame will be a different team in 2013 without All-American and Big East Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Finley on the pitch. You don’t lose a player like Finley who put twenty-one goals in the back of the net without it being a concern. Clearly the Irish will have to find another “go-to guy.” Finley’s productivity last year was reminiscent of the 2006 season in which Irish forward Joseph Lapira scored twenty-two goals and was awarded the Hermann Trophy. The impact of Finley’s graduation in terms of wins and losses will be determined by the ability of others to carry more of the offensive load in 2013.
Equally difficult to replace will be All-American central midfielder Dillon Powers who had ten career goals and twenty-two carrer assists. The two-time team captain was a valuable contributor during each of his four seasons in South Bend. Defender Danny O’Leary and goalkeeper Will Walsh are among other players who have departed due to graduation.
Despite the departures, there’s plenty to be excited about in South Bend again in 2013. Seniors Harrison Shipp (6g, 6a), Alex Priede (4g, 1a) and Leon Brown (1g, 3a) are among returning forwards who were starters last year. Shipp, a 2012 All-Big East Third Team selection, is among the likely suspects who will be counted on to play a key role in the attack in 2013. Junior Vince Cicciarelli will also seek to work his way into the rotation up-top.
Junior center midfielder Nick Besler (1g, 2a) looks to be the guy who will set the pace in the midfield. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan (6g, 5a) who was a College Soccer News All-Freshman selection as well as a member of the All-Big East Rookie Team, had a banner freshman season and should add an additional dimension to the offensive in 2013. Junior Brendan Lesch is among other returning midfielders whose role will likely be expanded in 2013. Junior Robby Gallegos should also be in the mix.
The backline looks to be very talented and experienced in 2013. Firth year senior center back Grant Van de Casteele will anchor the backline. Van de Casteele is a ball winner and team leader with three years of starting experience under his belt. Junior Max Lachowecki returns at left back while senior Luke Mishu returns at right back. Seniors Andrew O’Malley and Connor Miller will also play significant roles. Senior Patrick Wall who started ten contests last year with a 0.98 goals against average returns between the pipes. Senior Adam LaPlaca and sophomore Brian Talcott also return in goal.
Bobby Clark has announced the addition of a five member 2013 recruiting class. The class includes three players rated by College Soccer News as among the top one-hundred and fifty recruits coming out of the class of 2013. Clark stated, “This class has the makings of being another first-class group of young men and good soccer players at Notre Dame. We feel we have a very good group.” Clark added, “There’s a good Midwest flavor, but it’s also a nicely spread-out group of players.” The newcomers include midfielder Brandon Aubrey rated by CSN as the 24th best recruit in the class of 2013, midfielder Oliver Harris rated by CSN as the 71st best recruit, and defender Matt Habrowski who is rated by CSN as the 104th recruit in the 2013 class. This is a class that will bolster the Fighting Irish roster.
The move of Notre Dame from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014 looks to be a positive move for both the Irish and the ACC but it is not without some pain. Clark stated, “It’s kind of a bittersweet moment because I enjoyed being in the Big East. It was a great conference for us and for soccer and I have a lot of friends in the Big East. Having said that, I must say I’m very excited to join the ACC. It is one of the top soccer conferences in the country.”
The 2012 season was clearly a memorable one for Notre Dame. The seventeen wins were the most the program had achieved since the 1988 season and the number one seed in the NCAA Tourney was a first. On the other hand over the years the Irish have had more than the average number of disappointing losses in the NCAA Tourney. No one has ever accused the Irish of overachieving in NCAA Tourney play and the loss to Indiana at home last year had to be among the most disappointing since many felt Notre Dame had an excellent shot of advancing to the Final Four for the first time in the history of the program. However, that should not overshadow the success that the program has enjoyed as reflected in the fact that the Irish have had double-digit win totals and earned a berth in the NCAA Tourney in eleven of the twelve seasons that Clark has been at the helm of the program. Expect continued success again in 2013 as Clark has proven time and time again that he is capable of reloading the Irish in quick order.
Brandon Aubrey – Midfield – Plano, Texas – Plano Senior High School – Rated by CSN as the 24th best recruit in the country. Played for the Dallas Texans Soccer Development Academy.
Matt Habrowski – Defender – Berkley, Michigan – Brother Rice High School – Played for Crew Soccer Academy Wolves. Rated as the #104 recruit in class of 2013 by CSN. NSCAA Youth All-American.
Oliver Harris – Midfield – Birmingham, Michigan – Detroit Country Day – Played for Crew Soccer Academy Wolves. Rated by CSN as the #71 recruit in the class of 2013. Michigan ODP.
Chris Hubbard – Goalkeeper – Louisville, Kentucky – Trinity High – All-State as a senior. Played for River City Rovers PDL team. Kentucky ODP team. 0.66 career goals against average in high school.
Mark Mishu – Defender – Knoxville, Tennessee – Knoxville Catholic – Played for FC Alliance. Three year captain. Four year starter at Knoxville Catholic. First Team All-District.