Aug 29, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
One at a time.
Tasked with defending a national championship for the first time in program history, Notre Dame will continue to employ the simplest of approaches.
“I know we took the extra step in 2013, but what our team has been very good at doing in the last couple of years is taking the season one game at a time,” skipper Bobby Clark said. “The game at hand is the most important one. If we do that this year – take it one game at a time, right through the whole season – I think that’s the best approach. We can’t look forward, we can’t look back.”
Clark stayed within sports to provide an analogy for his squad’s attitude.
“It’s like being on a golf course,” Clark said. “You don’t start counting your score when you’re on the fifth or sixth tee. You concentrate on your next shot. If you do that, you usually do quite well.”
The Irish return nine starters from last year’s team, led by captains Nick Besler, Luke Mishu, and Andrew O’Malley. Clark and his staff have harped to this experienced bunch that the Irish’s decorated 2013 campaign means nothing come Friday.
“The players have to know that this is a different year,” Clark said. “Very rarely do two seasons completely mirror one another.”
Notre Dame faces an arduous start to its title defense; the top-ranked Irish will face #12 Marquette on Friday and #9 Georgetown on Sunday. Both matches will be played in Bloomington, Ind. as part of the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.
The Golden Eagles and Hoyas are former BIG EAST rivals of the Irish. But the teams’ familiarity with each other goes beyond former conference affiliations in Georgetown and Notre Dame’s case. Hoyas head coach Brian Wiese was an assistant under Clark at Notre Dame and Stanford, and played for Clark at Dartmouth.
“He’s still very close to us,” Clark said. “He follows this program very closely.”
Playing both games at a neutral site will not faze the Irish, as the caliber of both teams will more than make up for any lack of buzz surrounding the games.
“When you play big teams, the match itself provides the environment,” Clark said. “We won’t use that as an excuse.”
This no-nonsense attitude has served the Irish well in past years, and Clark hopes that this year’s squad will adopt a similar mindset.
“One of the great things about Notre Dame over the past couple of years is that some of our best players played with a blue collar attitude,” Clark said. “If we can maintain this blue collar attitude I think we’ll be very good.”
When further probed about the Irish’s prospects, Clark emanates quiet confidence.
“We feel we have a decent squad, and hopefully we can steer clear of injuries,” Clark said. “You hope you can stay healthy. I think if we can do that, provided we play well, we’ll be fine. But we’ve got to play.”
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