Apple era begins with best recruiting class in history
By MOLLY McVOY
The 2000 season will be a time of transition for the men's soccer team in more ways than one.
Head coach Chris Apple faces the challenge of leading his team after the unexpected death of former head coach Mike Berticelli in January. Apple, an assistant coach for the past four years, took over after Berticelli's death. The team has been working to regroup and refocus since that time.
"I think every member of the team has grown in different ways as a result of this," Apple said. "It has been tough, but I think we have all learned something about life from it."
The Berticelli name will not be completely absent from the Irish soccer field, however. Nino Berticelli, Mike Berticelli's son and a 1999 graduate of Notre Dame, was named an assistant coach by Apple in June.
Berticelli will join Mike Avery as Apple's assistant coach for the upcoming season. Berticelli will work with the Irish goalkeepers, a questionable area for this season. The goalkeeper spot was left vacant when Gerick Short graduated. His replacement has not yet been named and sophomores Greg Tait and Cole Straub are in competition for the job. Tait played in three games in 1999 while Straub has not seen any playing time.
"[The goal keeper spot] is a spot that there's an ongoing fierce battle for and they're both looking great," Apple said. "On the field, they battle it out, but off the field, they're roommates and great friends. When one or the other gets the start, the other one will be his biggest fan."
In addition to searching for a starting goalkeeper, the Irish squad will be looking for support for their leading scorer and Big East Rookie of the Year, Erich Braun. The Irish did not find solid scorers to back up the scoring of Braun last season and are looking for seven or eight players that can score five or more goals this season, according to Apple.
"This week of preseason has shown that a number of players have finishing potential," Apple said. "I think we'll be a little more balanced than last year."
The strong incoming freshman class may provide a source for some of the needed personnel. Notre Dame has one of the best recruiting classes in recent history this year. Seven new players will join the Irish squad this season. Two of the recruits, Brian Jarvis and Devin Prescod played forward in their high school careers and will hopefully add to the Irish offensive attack.
Three midfielders, Kevin Richards, Filippo Chillemi and Chad Riley will also be joining Notre Dame this season. The Irish built last season on a strong defense and recruits Greg Martin and Justin Detter have the potential to contribute defensively.
"This is the best recruiting class we have ever seen," Coach Apple said. "These guys are unbelievable. They're very dedicated and they add a lot of depth to this team."
The team was ranked seventh in the Big East's preseason rankings, an improvement on the eighth place finish of last season. The preseason poll by a vote of the league's 12 head coaches picked Connecticut, last year's conference champion, to repeat last year's championship.
Notre Dame faces a tough early schedule when they play six of their first seven games on the road. Their first home match is against Bradley on Sept. 6.
All Sports Stories for Saturday, August 19, 2000