Irish men's soccer is on a roll.
When we caught you up on the week in ND athletics last week, Irish athletes had charged into the 2012 fall season with early wins in volleyball and men's and women's soccer, and a strong showing in cross country.
Once again this week, the news revolves around soccer and volleyball.
Soccer: The 13th-ranked men's team is happily off to a perfect 5-0 start after last weekend's Berticelli Memorial Tournament at Notre Dame. The Irish defeated both Oregon State (1-0) and no. 4 Akron (3-1) in a very physical match to win the tournament. The start is remarkable for the Irish, who last opened a season 5-0 in 1987.
Friday, the men's team faces Michigan State at home at 7:00.
The women's team (3-3-1) played a stunning game v. no. 19/18 Portland (4-1-1) last Friday. The Irish earned a 1-1 draw in double overtime in a match that saw the Irish bounce the ball off the opponent's crossbar or post three times and saw our freshman goalie, Elyse Hight, make nine saves, more than any ND player in 13 years - all before a crowd of nearly 5,000 in Portland, Oregon.
The luck was not with the Irish in their weekend match v. no. RV/22 Washington (7-0-0), to whom they fell 3-0. This was the team's fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent over the past nine days. Quite the stretch for a young team.
The women's team begins Big East play at home v. Louisville on Friday.
Two players on the women's team, junior Mandy Laddish and freshman Cari Roccaro, helped lead the U.S. to the title in the 2012 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup in Tokyo last Saturday night in a 1-0 victory over Germany. Both have returned to South Bend to rejoin their teammates.
Volleyball: After opening the season with a string of victories, the Irish (5-4) traveled to Southern California for the USC Classic Tournament last weekend. There, they swept Cal Poly 3-0 in strong play - this was ND's third 3-0 sweep of the season, and their fourth consecutive match victory.
Unfortunately, the Irish dropped their next two tournament matches against no. 17 San Diego and no. 5 USC. The Irish played San Diego close, fighting through five close sets behind sophomore Toni Alugbue's career-high 22 kills. USC swept the Irish in 3 sets, but the match was closer than the score suggests and the Trojans had to overcome deficits to the Irish in two sets - 24-22 in set one and 21-19 in set two.
The team returns to the Purcell Pavillion for the Golden Dome Invitational this weekend, where they will face Xavier, Loyola Marymount, and Kansas.
Cross Country: After opening the season on August 31st in Valparaiso at the Crusader Invitational, where the men's and women's teams both captured second place finishes, Irish cross country hits the ground running once more this weekend in the National Catholic Championships at Notre Dame.
Tennis: While play hasn't yet started for men's and women's tennis, we learned this week that several Notre Dame players are ranked heading into the 2012 season.
Following their Big East championship last season, three women appeared in the ITA rankings: Britney Sanders (98th), who racked up 28 singles victories and a 22-5 record in doubles play in 2011-12; Jennifer Kellner (106th), with 26 singles victories in 2011-12; and Julie Sabacinski who, with Sanders, is ranked 36th in the doubles rankings (13-4 in 2011-12). The women's team will begin play at the Hoosier Classic in Bloomington on September 28th.
Notre Dame's Big East Men's Tennis Player of the Year in 2011-12, Greg Andrews (35-10 in 2011-12), enters the season ranked 24th by the ITA. He will also play in the ITA All-American Championships next month. The men's team will begin play at the Illini Invitational at Illinois and the Vredevelt Invite at Western Michigan this weekend.
We'll bring you updates again next week on the Notre Dame Olympic sports and help you to root for the Irish beyond those long-awaited and well-loved fall Saturdays. For now, go Irish. Beat Michigan State, and everybody else.