Irish begin season beneath Las Vegas lights
By NOAH AMSTADTER
The Notre Dame men's soccer team plays under the bright lights of Las Vegas this weekend as it opens the 2000 season at the UNLV Fila/ Snickers Rebel Classic. The Irish take on New Mexico tonight at 9 p.m. and host Nevada-Las Vegas at noon on Sunday.
First-year head coach, Chris Apple, is optimistic heading into the tournament.
"We've never played either of the teams," he said, "We expect to go out and win the tournament, though. That is our goal and that is our expectation."
The Irish face their first test tonight against the Lobos of New Mexico. New Mexico is coming off a 1999 campaign that saw the team finish third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with an overall record of 9-8-1.
The Lobos rely on an experienced defensive backfield. Seniors George Creamer, Hank Schwyzer and team captain Alan Watson combine to challenge the Irish offense. The Lobos' main offensive weapon is senior forward Ty Hibbert. Hilbert led the team in scoring last season despite logging only 1,318 minutes due to a variety of injuries.
New Mexico is coming off a loss in their only preseason game falling to Colorado-Colorado Springs on August 26, 3-1.
The Irish bring in a revamped offense to challenge the Lobos. Returning sophomore Erich Braun was named the Big East Rookie of the Year in 1999 after leading the Irish in scoring with 24 points on nine goals. Braun is coming off a preseason hamstring injury, but is expected to take the field in Las Vegas. Senior tri-captain Dustin Pridmore ranked fourth on the team in scoring last season.
The biggest change from last season on the offensive end is a group of talented freshmen. Following the loss of Andrew Aris and Alan Lyskawa to graduation, the team found itself without its number two and three scorers, respectively from last season.
Enter a talented group of freshmen, who already have accounted for three of the five goals the Irish scored in winning two of three preseason games. Two of those three goals were scored by freshman Justin Detter. Detter, a Parade High School All-American last season, traveled with the National Team at Bradenton Academy.
Detter also assisted on two more preseason goals, one to sophomore Justin Ratcliffe and the other to classmate Devon Prescod.
Although more than half of the team is underclassmen, it is far from inexperienced. The majority of the sophomores logged significant playing time as freshmen last season. Also, the eight freshmen joining the team are regarded as perhaps the best recruiting class in the history of Notre Dame men's soccer.
Apple has already used this depth to his advantage in the preseason.
"We played 19 players last weekend [in exhibition play], we've never been able to play that many players in a game or in a weekend."
After a day off on Saturday, the Irish take on the host Rebels Sunday afternoon. The Rebels are coming off of a 1-0-1 preseason which saw them defeat Master's College 1-0 before playing to a 3-3 tie against Grand Canyon. Last season the Rebels finished 7-11-0 and placed seventh in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, four places below New Mexico.
Junior forward Jason Melendez leads the Rebel offense. Melendez tallied eight goals and four assists last season, and already has scored twice in the two preseason games.
Sophomore Tuomas Talvio added five goals and four assists last year, and also has put the ball in the net once this year in a preseason game against Grand Canyon.
The Irish counter with a defense that combines youth and experience. The team's other two tri-captains, Steve Maio and Connor LaRose, are both returning starters. They are joined by returning starter, sophomore Andreas Forstner who is known for his intelligent play which helps him to intercept passes.
The new man in the back is freshman Greg Martin. Like Detter, Martin is a Parade All-American and played on the 1999 Youth World Cup team. A hard-nosed player, Martin's maturity has impressed teammates this fall.
"He has taken on a role in the back that is very difficult for a young player," said Pridmore. "He has been able to fit in right away."
The Irish return home to open their home season next Wednesday against Bradley at Alumni Field.
All Sports Stories for Friday, September 1, 2000