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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame alums Riley and Dalby cross paths once again in semi-final showdown

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The 2003 Notre Dame men's soccer team, which featured both current Irish head coach Chad Riley and current Oregon State head coach Greg Dalby.


Like many other aspects of Notre Dame men’s soccer history, Friday’s College Cup showdown between the Irish and Oregon State can be tied back to Bobby Clark.

The match will represent more than just Notre Dame’s third-ever College Cup appearance as a program. It will also feature a coaching battle between two managers who once donned the blue and gold themselves.

Though Notre Dame manager Chad Riley and Oregon State boss Greg Dalby will be squaring off for the first time as head coaches, the pairing are plenty familiar. Dalby arrived in South Bend as a freshman in 2003, just in time to share the field with Riley, then a senior vice-captain. That year’s Irish team would go on to capture the Big East championship, the first of two such titles under Clark.

Ahead of his squad’s trip to Louisville, Riley reflected on his time under his predecessor and Clark’s value as a mentor.

“I think it says a lot about his ability to teach players,” said Riley. “But also to teach coaches. I think he really was that coach educator that Jack [Swarbrick] always talks about. We all try to personify that in some way now, but I think it says a lot about Bobby as just a good teacher.” 

A shared year on the pitch for the Irish isn’t the only Notre Dame commonality between Dalby and Riley. Both served as assistants under Clark, just nearly missing sharing the same dugout. Riley served in South Bend for six years from 2006 to 2011. When he left for Dartmouth - where he’d become head coach one year later - Clark hired Dalby as Riley's replacement on the Irish bench.

Dalby would stick around for three years at Alumni Stadium, a period coinciding with arguably Notre Dame’s most successful stretch as a program. With Clark and Dalby on the touchline, the Irish captured a Big East tournament title in 2012, a share of the ACC regular season title in 2013, the ACC Coastal Divison title in 2014 and, of course, the 2013 national championship.

Now serving as head coach against his alma mater for the first time, Dalby reflected on the importance of his bond with Riley and the Notre Dame program as he’s risen through the coaching ranks.

“Chad’s one of my closest coaching colleagues,” Dalby said. “I’m really grateful for our relationship, our friendship. He helps me all the time. We speak during the season, we text. I’m excited to see Notre Dame, where they are… I’m really close with their staff. One of the assistants (Mike Graczyk), we were at each other's weddings, so there are a lot of questions for sure. But for me, nothing’s different. It’s all business. It’s all about Oregon State, our team, this program and getting ready for a really good game.”

Both Dalby and Riley left sizable legacies in South Bend during their playing career. Riley to this day stands as second on the program’s all-time assists leaderboard. Dalby became one of just 17 Irish men’s players to earn all-American honors his senior year.

And now, with a trip to the national championship game on the line, the former teammates’ respective paths will converge once more. Riley will look to further make his mark on his alma mater, adding another bullet point to a lifelong Notre Dame resume that’s already starting to rival some of the school’s longest-tenured servants. Dalby is hoping to keep his ascending star in the coaching world on the rise, with the 38-year-old in just his first year as a head coach.

Regardless of the result, with eight monograms between the two managers, Friday will be a toast to the prior roots of the Irish program.

Editor's Note: The NCAA suspended Dalby Thursday for Oregon State's College Cup appearance. He will miss four matches after using midfielder Javier Armas in their quarterfinal match, who wasn't eligible to play due to yellow card accumulation.

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