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Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 60 of 67 PRESEASON 2022 61 Consecutive top-five finishes nation- ally would be impressive. MEN'S SOCCER Season Opener: Seattle University Aug. 25 at Alumni Field in South Bend ACC Predicted Finish: Top 3; Clemson is ranked No. 1 nationally and the favorite to win the conference NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Na- tional championship Coach's Expectations: Talk about peaking at the right time. Irish head coach Chad Riley coached his team last season to a 6-1-1 record to finish the regular season, then to an ACC cham- pionship in the grueling league, then to just the second appearance in the NCAA College Cup in program history (2013). Standout scorer Jack Lynn is gone af- ter three impactful seasons, but Riley believes his team — ranked No. 4 in the preseason by the United Soccer Coaches Poll — may be deeper than last year's. "Every year is a new team," said Riley, whose Irish finished 14-5-5 last season. "But I do think what should carry over from the team last year is the belief that you can win any game, and the belief in the process." Top Player: Junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd was brilliant late last season. Dur- ing the four Irish wins in the ACC cham- pionship, Dowd didn't allow a goal. And in four NCAA Tournament games, Dowd allowed only two scores. He pitched six shutouts in eight postseason games. Dowd is also competing for a role at punter for the Irish football team this fall. Athlete To Watch: Junior Paddy Burns finished fourth on the Irish last season with 11 points on 3 goals and 5 assists. Don't Miss: The high-profile, in- state matchup with Indiana is again a marquee non-conference game. WOMEN'S SOCCER Season Opener: Marquette Aug. 18 at Alumni Field in South Bend ACC Predicted Finish: Sixth, but the league is wide-open at the top this season NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Final Four Coach's Expectations: Head coach Nate Norman ran out of adjectives while explaining how potent of an offensive team this group can be. The Irish beat Ball State 3-0 in an exhibition on Aug. 13, and Norman said his team should've scored about twice that many goals. "I think we can be a very high-scoring, just dangerous, prolific team on the at- tack," Norman said. "That's what we want to be, a fast-paced, daring, relentless, ruthless attack-oriented team this year." Norman lost his star player and leader from last season with the graduation of Sammi Fisher, but he returns three of his top four scorers in 2022. He said the ACC will be loaded again so just staying in the league's top standings tier will be important for his talented group, which was ranked No. 16 nationally in the pre- season by the United Soccer Coaches. "If you're a top-four team in the ACC, you're probably going to be a top-10 or top-12 team in the country," Norman said. "We want make sure we're in that group." Top Player: Sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert enjoyed a busy summer playing for the U.S. U-20 World Cup team. The All-ACC preseason selec- tion was terrific as a freshman last year, finishing second on the Irish with 28 points on 12 goals and 4 assists. Athlete To Watch: Senior midfielder Maddie Mercado is expected to make a sizable production jump this season after a solid junior year. Mercado fin- ished fourth on the Irish last year with 14 points (5 goals and 4 assists). Don't Miss: Notre Dame ends its reg- ular season on Oct. 27 at home against Duke, the preseason pick to win the ACC. VOLLEYBALL Season Opener: Texas Tech Aug. 26 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend ACC Predicted Finish: Bottom five in the 15-team league NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Make the 64-team field Coach's Expectations: Given all that first-year Notre Dame head coach Salima Rockwell faced during the first eight months on her new job, she's for- given for not yet being exactly sure how to explain her team's identity. "It's been a whirlwind," Rockwell said. "But I'm loving every minute of it." Rockwell's checklist? Build a coaching staff, try to keep and protect the players who didn't transfer during a month-long coaching search, and recruit like crazy to replace a tal- ented group of graduates. "We lost quite a few players in the in- terim before I got hired," Rockwell said. "So, the first priority was recruiting — hitting the road and finding quality play- ers. I'm so excited with what we have." Rockwell's complete program overhaul tempers expectations for Notre Dame this season. But for a three-time All-American player at Penn State and a NCAA title- winning assistant coach at Texas, Rock- well and her journey are only beginning. "This is a team that's eager to learn. They want to get better," she said. "They ask a lot of questions, and that's all you want. We have a lot of pieces — stay tuned." Top Player: While many Irish de- parted last December, junior libero Hat- tie Monson stayed. Monson led the Irish last season with 407 digs and was sec- ond with 89 assists and 29 service aces. Athlete To Watch: Playing as a true freshman last season behind standout Irish setter Zoe Nunez, sophomore Phy- ona Schrader inherits an important role. As a freshman reserve in 2021, Schrader finished third on the team with 55 sets. Don't Miss: Notre Dame gets its chance to beat the best at Louisville on Oct. 26. The Cardinals were undefeated ACC champs and a Final Four NCAA Tournament team in 2021. ✦ ND SPORTS Junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd recorded six shut- outs in eight postseason games last year, while helping the Irish to their second-ever College Cup appearance. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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