Irish move on without Walton
By KERRY SMITH
Head coach Mike Berticelli and the Irish menís soccer team have quite an act to follow as they train for conference play after last yearís winning season.
Ranked sixth in the Big Eastís preseason poll, the Irish have to step up on offensive and defensive to ensure a record that matches 1998ís 9-6-3 finish.
The loss of leading goal scorer Shane Walton leaves a hole in the Irish offense. Walton, who now plays football for the Irish, knocked in 10 goals and amassed 22 points last season.
Returning seniors Ryan Cox and Andrew Aris take over leadership roles up front. Cox, who scored five goals and tallied eight assists last season, is a versatile player with good play-making abilities.
Aris, with five goals and four assists last season, has played both as a forward and a midfielder for Notre Dame. Their contributions to the teamís offensive play are key for victorious season.
Defensively, the Irish are without two graduated four-year starters ó goalkeeper Greg Velho and stopper Matt Johnson. Senior sweeper Matt McNew, who was named to the 1998 second team all-Big East, is the only returning defensive starter and Notre Dameís backbone.
The teamís greatest stability comes in the midfield, where most of last yearís players return for the upcoming season. Third-year players Connor LaRose, Reggie McKnight and Dustin Pridmore provide experience and reliability necessary for a young team.
But inexperience and youth do not mean lack of talent. Berticelli, entering his 10th season as head coach, adds 11 freshman to the team - one of Notre Dameís most successful recruiting bids in the past decade.
With strength and skill, the incoming athletes are in position to vie for starting spots on the field. Heading this yearís recruiting class are defenders Justin Ratcliffe and Andreas Forstner, goal keeper Greg Tait, midfielders Alex Altmann and Paul Rodriguez and forward Erich Braun.
The menís soccer team will face formidable opponents on its quest for Big East and NCAA tournament bids. The Irish will travel to take on conference powerhouses St. Johns, Connecticut and Seton Hall ó ranked first, second and fourth, respectively, in the preseason poll. Theyíll host Rutgers and Georgetown, at the third and fourth spots, respectively.
The Irish open the season on the road at Northwestern next Wednesday before returning to Notre Dame for their home opener against Boston College Sept. 4.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, August 4, 1999