Notre Dame prepares for Cleveland State
By KERRY SMITH
The Notre Dame men's soccer team returns to Alumni Field tonight when it takes on the Cleveland State Vikings in a non-conference match-up.
The Irish had a strong start to the season, picking up wins in their first two games, but they suffered a loss and a tie in two overtime battles in their most recent contests.
The squad will look to come out strong against the Vikings to put another notch in the win column.
"We're taking this game seriously," said starting defender Justin Ratcliffe. "We have haven't won the last two games — we had a loss and a tie — so we're looking to get back on a winning streak."
Cleveland State, with a 2-2-0 record this year, comes off a disappointing 1998 season. The Vikings finished with a 4-15-0 record and in eighth place in the Midwestern Collegiate conference.
In a 1999 preseason poll, conference coaches ranked the Vikings to finish this year in seventh place.
Notre Dame freshman forwards Rafael Garcia and Erich Braun and midfielder Alan Lyskawa provide an offensive spark, with each scoring one of three Irish goals this season.
Senior forward Andrew Aris also has been a pivotal player on the offensive attack, with two assists.
Patient play in the backfield has opened up many scoring opportunities for the Irish.
"Our attack is a little inexperienced — we're still learning how each other plays," said Ratcliffe. "What we're doing best right now is building out of the backfield. Our defense and midfield are playing really well. We just need to get to that level on attack too."
Cleveland State has only four returning lettermen in their lineup.
This season, the trio of forward Ryan Sgro and midfielders Adam Campellone and Kareem Reynolds have stepped up to lead the Viking offense.
The three have combined for four of the five goals Cleveland State has scored in its four contests. Both Sgro and Reynolds have picked up an assist. Sgro, who scored only three goals during the Vikings' 1998 campaign, promises to be a greater threat on offense this year, as he has already tallied two goals in four games.
"We need to get our confidence back," said Ratcliffe. "Hopefully a win against Cleveland State will give us that confidence before our two Big East games this weekend."
One of Cleveland State's two victories came at the expense of Western Michigan, which handed the Irish their only loss this season.
Western Michigan beat Notre Dame in a 1-0 overtime decision at Alumni field. The Irish dominated the contest offensively, but could not put the ball past goalkeeper Eric Pogue.
The Vikings had an easier time against Pogue and the rest of the Western Michigan squad, disposing of them 3-1 at Western Michigan in both teams' season-openers.
The Vikings tallied their only other victory against the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. The teams' two losses came against Michigan State and Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis, a squad which the Irish will face later this season.
This is the first meeting between Notre Dame and Cleveland State.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 14, 1999