It was a busy second day for the Irish in Philadelphia. After breakfast at the team hotel, the team headed out to PPL Park, the home of the MLS's Philadelphia Union and the site of tomorrow's NCAA quarterfinal game against Virginia. The Irish spent about an hour on the field, stretching, going through a few drills, and talking strategy for their upcoming game against the fifth-seeded Cavaliers. After the walkthrough, the players signed autographs for those in attendance, including many young fans who had just finished a youth clinic outside the stadium. The Irish returned to the locker room, grabbed lunch and showered, before it was off to Malvern Prep, an Augustinian Catholic school in nearby Malvern, Penn. Since they have often been on the road during commencement weekend, the Irish began a tradition of holding their own ceremony to honor the team' seniors over the past several years. This year, twelve seniors graduated at the Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel on the Malvern Prep campus. Rev. James R. Flynn, O.S.A., the Head of School, said Mass, with the help of three Malvern students (and future Domers) who served as altar servers and lectors.
The twelve Notre Dame lacrosse student-athletes in the class of 2012 include: Ben Ashenburg, Nick Beattie, Jake Brems, Devon Dobson, Andrew Gleason, Eric Keppeler, Max Pfeifer, Colt Power, Kevin Randall, Michael Rogers, Sean Rogers and Bobby Smith.At the end of Mass, head coach Kevin Corrigan said a few words and introduced John Delaney ('78), a Philadelphia assistant district attorney and the president of the Notre Dame Alumni Association, to give the commencement address. Delaney spoke about four characteristics of the university - faith, vision, passion and family. He talked about Father Sorin's vision in founding Notre Dame, as well as the lifelong familial bond that the graduating Irish will not only have with their teammates, but with the university. The Irish also got a visit from Gene Corrigan, father of head coach Kevin Corrigan, a former Virginia lacrosse coach and the Notre Dame athletic director from 1981-87 (among many other accomplishments). Gene talked about all the senior class had accomplished over four years, and offered words of encouragement as they seek to finish off great careers by hopefully earning three more wins, beginning Sunday against the team he once called his own. To conclude the ceremony, Philip Pfeifer, a professor at Virginia's Darden School of Business and the father of Irish senior Max Pfeifer, officially declared the Irish seniors graduates of the University of Notre Dame. Professor Pfeifer served as a visiting professor in South Bend during this past year. Since the university's undergraduate ceremonies will be held tomorrow, the twelve Irish lacrosse student-athletes became a few of the first official graduates in the class of 2012. I had a chance to speak with Fr. Flynn after Mass and he was incredibly grateful to have been a part of Notre Dame's ceremony today, calling it a great honor for Malvern Prep to be associated with such a fine university. From my own perspective, I really thought the graduation was a nice way of recognizing the hard work and accomplishments - academically and athletically - of these young men over the past four years. It's too bad that they cannot participate in the regular commencement with the rest of their graduating class, but it's a double-edged sword. The fact that the Irish are missing graduation is a good thing - it means their season is still going on and their title hopes are still alive. Besides, it was an intimate celebration with the people with whom they are closest - their families and lacrosse brothers.
Max Pfeifer, Sean Rogers, Ben Ashenburg and Bobby Smith - four of the first graduates in the class of 2012.After parents had taken plenty of team graduation photos, the Irish left for downtown Philadelphia and a nice dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy. On the bus, we caught the end of the Spurs-Clippers game, before popping in 'Casino Royale' while stuck in traffic. When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted with a nice family-style meal in one of the banquet rooms. I'm not sure I've ever seen spaghetti, chicken parm, salad and bread disappear as quickly as it did tonight. In and out - twenty minutes max. From there, it was back to the hotel, where the Irish got in a final film session on Virginia. It's an early wake up call on Sunday. After Maryland and Loyola (Md.) punched their tickets to Foxborough, Mass. on Saturday, Notre Dame will look to become the third team with a spot in the Final Four. The game begins at noon ET and will be broadcast live on ESPNU/ESPN3. Remember to follow @NDlacrosse on Twitter for more photos and in-game during the rest of the trip. - Josh Flynt ('11)