For the freshmen on the Notre Dame hockey team who just played their first game this past weekend on the ice of the Lefty Smith Rink at Compton Family Ice Arena, they've got four long seasons awaiting them. For the seniors, this is it: their last chance at an NCAA title. This year, their last, is also a year for the seniors to step up into leadership roles and show the freshmen the difference three years can make.
Missing out on the NCAA tournament last season, held at Notre Dame, stung. Some lessons, however, came out of it and this year's captains have set some goals and precedents for the season to get them not only to the tournament, but to the championship game in April. I spoke with four of the five captains--Steven Fogarty and alternate captains Sam Herr, Mario Lucia, and Tommy DiPauli--to talk about the outlook on the upcoming season, how they've changed since 2012, and what they've learned from experience and mistakes that they can teach to the team they're now leading.
"As a team we've come up with some goals for ourselves. I mean, there are performance goals, but there are also team value goals," Fogarty revealed. "Our main goal obviously is to win a national championship, but there are steps you've got to take to get there. I mean something we missed out on last year is the NCAA tournament, and we realized how important the non-conference games are. Those are usually at the beginning of the year, so we really need to have an emphasis on those, but obviously we have some off-ice values that we're going to try to hold everyone accountable to, and if we do that, I think we're going to have success on the ice."
Fogarty is in his second consecutive year as team captain. Herr is also entering his second consecutive year as assistant captain. For Lucia and DiPauli, this will be their first season with letters on their jerseys, but regardless, they have both been leaders for some time. DiPauli says that the lesson he hopes to teach the freshmen is that mistakes happen, but moving on is what matters.
"As for leadership this year, [it's] teaching the younger guys that messing up is not a big deal. I think that's a big part for a lot of freshmen and sophomores, because often times those players can let one little mistake kind of dictate the rest of the practice or the rest of the game. I think it's important that they know that hockey is a game of mistakes, and mistakes are going to happen, but that's why we're a team."
Teaching that lesson and ingraining the moral values and season goals of the team in the freshmen began in June when the team, including the class of 2019, came to campus for summer school. That's also when team chemistry began to build. Fogarty reported that team chemistry is good--"definitely not an issue right now." With chemistry taken care of, focus is the next thing to tackle.
"Everyone acknowledges rankings, but at the end of the day, we try to get the team to focus on the weekends," said Herr. "People are going to hear about [the rankings], but going into a weekend, we try to keep the focus on that. 'We cannot accept anything less than four points' is the goal going into a weekend. We have objectives during a game that we try to achieve, we try to execute, and not think about the bigger picture, but it's hard to say that people don't actually do it. I think it's on us to make sure the team is focused on a weekend instead of the overall picture."
Lucia agreed, and added, "At the end of the day, it matters where you are at the end of the season, not at the beginning."
Only two games into the season, both exhibition games, that ends-based attitude will have to be reinforced every single day. The leadership unit this year, though, has plenty of experience, which leads to maturity.
"The main thing that I've noticed is [that] as we get older is everyone acts more like a professional. People start realizing how to take care of their bodies, and they start realizing the preparation that needs to go into a game and after a game to regroup, and stuff like that." Herr continued, "Each year you learn something different on how to handle that, and that's the biggest difference from freshman year. I'm not saying that freshman year you don't handle yourself well, but you obviously learn as you go."
Consequently, the advice they leave for their underclassmen includes the following:
"Work hard. Do the little things," suggested Lucia, who came out as a force in his first season with the Irish and has continued to be a top-scorer, improving every year.
"This may be cliche, but it's a process. You're not going to go out and execute every single thing that coach wants you to execute your first game. Everyone's going to make mistakes. We've all been there," said Herr, who missed several weeks of action his freshman year to illness. "Guys aren't going to see the ice time that they think they're going to see, but you just can't let that affect you. You have to have a positive attitude and you've got to stick to the process. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, and you've got to work to get there."
There's a long season ahead. That means months of potential mistakes, but also several months for improvement and success. With a strong and experienced leadership core to guide a talented group of underclassmen, the upcoming season hopes to be a great first for some and better last for others.
Happy Throwback Thursday! Now is a great time to look back on some of the amazing team photos that have been taken over the years. Here are my personal favorites.
#4: 1990 Tracksuits
Tracksuits are definitely one of the most memorable parts of the '80s and '90s. I love the triangular pose and the amazing hairstyles in this shot.
#3: 2002 Emerging from the Lakes
For some reason, in 2002 our very own men's soccer team decided to get into the lake with their uniforms on and and take an intimidating photo. Whether or not this shot was meant to be humorous is still up in the air. Also, in case you forgot what emerging means the definition is provided below. The question I have is, what exactly are they emerging from? This one is hilarious! This is also a year that the team made an appearance in the NCAA tournament
#2: 1992 Greased Lightnin': Geared for Success
What's better than a photo of soccer players? A photo of soccer players and racecars. I am not entirely sure how racecars are related to the game of soccer but this honestly is a beautiful picture for so many reasons. And there are more tracksuits, an obvious staple of the '90s.
2 years is not much of a throwback but this picture definitely tops every other one yet to be taken. Just looking at how happy the team is in this picture puts a smile on my face. Hopefully, we can make our way into the NCAA Championship yet again this year! Go Irish!!
This past Monday marks four years since members of the 2011 Notre Dame football team recorded Trick Shot Monday for the very first time. The inaugural edition was a lengthy 5 minutes of cell phone footage, half of which the team spent screaming in celebration of a made shot (see below).
The cinematography and trickiness of the shots have developed extensively since then and four years later, the tradition is still going strong.
In honor of the four year anniversary, here's a look back at some of the highlights over the years.
My name is Sierra Mayhew and I am the newest addition to the ND Blogging Team!
Hailing from Michigan, I grew up hearing a lot about Notre Dame. I never thought I would actually go to school here. However, this summer when I went on my first visit I immediately fell in love.
My intended major is Film, Television and Theatre with a specialization in Television and a minor in Journalism. Following this path of studies, I hope to get involved in Sports Broadcast Journalism or Fashion Print Journalism in some way after I graduate from Notre Dame. I have been blessed with the opportunity to not only attend ND but to be blogging for Fighting Irish Media.
As far as my involvement in sports, I was a cheerleader in high school for all four years. Through this experience, I have cheered not only at football games but soccer games, basketball games and a few other sports. Through cheerleading I have gained a huge appreciation for sports and cheer is one of my favourite memories from high school.
I spent time job shadowing this past spring and summer and interned with Fox 2 News. As a part of that job, I got the opportunity to work with Dan Miller, a sports anchor. I learned a lot about the details of broadcast journalism, by helping out with the Detroit Tigers, and it was a great experience.
I also shadowed multimedia journalist, Tori Petry from the Detroit Lions this summer for a few days. I thought that the aspects of her job were super awesome. I watched her come up with content for the team and interview players. The coolest part about this job was being able to hold the microphone for interviews. I ended up being in the background of shots that actually ended up on the site. My favourite part of this job shadow overall was getting to work so close to such talented athletes.
I will be taking on the role of blogging for the Notre Dame Men's and Women's Soccer teams and the Women's Basketball team. I played both soccer and basketball as a kid. Although I was not the best at either of these sports, I hope my experience helps me as I start this position. While blogging for ND Soccer and Women's Basketball teams, I hope to make it easier for fans to connect to the players. I will do my best to tailor my blog posts to what you guys want to hear.
If someone comes up to you and asks, "Do you want to go on the field and tour the Notre Dame locker room today?" you're not going to say no. It's Notre Dame. Of course you want to go on the field and tour the locker room.
And that was my exact response when the marketing team asked me if I wanted to go on the Irish Upgrades Locker Room Tour and On-Field Photo Friday experience during the Georgia Tech game weekend.
I brought along my good friend Molly to go on the tour with me, knowing she is a lifelong Notre Dame fan and would be just as stoked as I was to see behind the scenes of Notre Dame football.
Friday Field Access
There was no time wasted on this hour-long tour. The very first thing we did was step onto the field. To my surprise, and delight, we pretty much had full reign of the field, meaning they didn't rope us back at the end zone as they do for normal locker room tours. No, we actually got to run free.
I only wish I had brought a football so Molly and I could practice our routes on the 40 yard line. Instead, we had to steal one from a little kid (don't worry, we asked first). The one pass I did make to Molly, which was a perfectly thrown spiral just like DeShone Kizer taught me at Football 101, she dropped. It hit her right in the chest and she still dropped it! But, she did a touchdown dance anyway. We let her get away with celebrating a dropped touchdown pass because it's not every day you have the opportunity to do a touchdown dance on the field at Notre Dame Stadium.
Inside the Locker Room
Being an employee in Notre Dame athletics, I've talked my way into getting a tour of the locker room before. But, I can honestly say that the experience with Irish Upgrades was unlike any locker room tour I've taken before. For one, I've never seen the locker room set up for game day. The lockers were completely ready for each player with pads, a uniform, cleats, a helmet, and two perfectly placed pieces of bubble gum waiting for them to come in on Saturday afternoon.
The standard locker room tours don't let you actually walk around the locker room. But, with Irish Upgrades, you can. You're still not allowed to touch anything but you can at least stick your face up real close to the locker and, of course, you can take all the pictures you want. So, a fully charged camera is something you don't want to forget.
Molly described being in the locker room best when she said it felt like "sacred ground". This is the team's space. This is where they strategize, where they get fired up, where they celebrate wins. To be standing in the exact spot and knowing that all of this will take place in just 24 hours is pretty surreal.
Play Like A Champion Today
Of course, my favorite part of the locker room tour was getting to slap the Play Like A Champion Today sign and pretend like I was actually running out of the tunnel, onward to victory. When I touched the sign, I thought about all the people that have touched it, which immediately brought up thoughts of germs. I've been assured that they clean it regularly, though, so germs are nothing to worry about here. But, it's pretty cool to think about all of the Notre Dame legends who have touched the same sign and have actually ran onward to victory. The tradition of the sign is something not very many people have the chance to experience.
When I was little, my dad bought me a gold rally towel that is a mini version of the Play Like A Champion Today sign. I hung it on my bedroom wall and looked at it everyday, not sure if I'd ever see the real thing. To this day, it is still hanging on my wall. But, the real thing is so much cooler and something every Notre Dame fan should get a chance to see, and touch.
Post-Game Field Access
Another awesome part of the Irish Upgrades experience is that you get full on-field access after the game. My dad, a Notre Dame alum, and his friend, a guy who had never been to Notre Dame before, were at the game and came down onto the field with me post-game. At first, I thought, "How much different can going on the field after the game be from going on the field on Friday?" But, being on the field after the game is an entirely different experience.
I can't really put it into words but there was this feeling that lingered in the stadium; the aftermath of victory hanging in the air. It almost felt spiritual, which was probably due in large part to the sky at dusk and the sun setting over the stadium. To stand on the ground that the team had just won a battle on, it might sound cliché but, it was a surreal experience.
Being on the field post-game also feels very exclusive because it is not something very many people get to do. It's just your fellow fans with Irish Upgrades and a few ushers so, essentially, it feels like your own personal field. My dad and his friend raced each other from the 40 yard line to the end zone, their much slower version of a 40 yard dash. My dad lost by a bit but he insists it's only because he wasn't wearing the proper shoes for racing.
No matter what you do on campus on game weekend, you are going to have a remarkable experience - it's Notre Dame, how could you not? But if you want to take it above and beyond and really complete your Notre Dame experience, Irish Upgrades is the perfect way to do it. And I am saying this after only taking advantage of two of the several experiences they have to offer.
This is the closest you'll ever come to actually being on the team, unless you're a very good up-and-coming college football player, then you'll probably get closer. Most of all, it's something that is sure to create memories that will last you a lifetime, even if those memories include losing a race to your friend. If it was on the Notre Dame field, though, did you really lose anything? I think we all know the answer to that.
Nick Ossello always dreamed of being a college football player, and the Colorado native was well on his way to becoming one. Earning All-Colorado honors as a quarterback and safety at Wheat Ridge High School, Nick caught the eye of schools like the University of Montana and the Air Force Academy.
But, there was just one problem: he was pretty good at lacrosse, too. So good, in fact, he was sought out by the University of Maryland, one of the premiere lacrosse programs in the nation, and originally planned to play for the Terps.
"I'll never forget when Maryland e-mailed me and said, 'We're interested in you,'" said Nick. "I was like, 'Wow, I've been waiting for this e-mail since I was a little kid.'"
Nick always wanted to play college football over college lacrosse but, the Division I offers for lacrosse were too big to turn down.
And so was Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame just gave the best of both worlds, both academically and athletically," said Nick. "[They have] a top lacrosse program and top academics. So, ultimately, when Coach Corrigan and Coach Byrne reached out to me, pretty much as soon as I set foot here on campus, I couldn't turn it down."
The decision to play lacrosse at Notre Dame paid off for Nick. During his junior year, the Irish made it to the NCAA Championship game and lost to Duke. Last year, Nick's senior year, Notre Dame suffered an overtime loss in the semifinal game to eventual champion Denver. It was a goal from Nick that forced the game into overtime with 9 seconds left in regulation.
"Regardless of how well we were as a program, we had a lot of success and we were working really hard as a team," said Nick. "Those guys are still my best friends to this day and I'll always be appreciative of that experience."
Not only is Nick proud of the program's success but, he is was also happy to be a part of putting lacrosse, and Notre Dame lacrosse specifically, on the map. When #1 Notre Dame beat #2 UNC last year at home in front of a sold out crowd, the students stormed the field in celebration, a rare occurrence for a college lacrosse game.
"One of the coolest things was just to see how much the sport of lacrosse grew from where it was my freshman year to my senior year," said Nick. "Not only to be a part of a great program like Notre Dame, but just to see the sport of lacrosse grow was an unbelievable opportunity that I'll always be appreciative of."
Lacrosse was so promising for Nick that he even got drafted to play professionally for the Denver Outlaws, his home Major League Lacrosse team.
Then, his childhood dream to play college football resurfaced.
"I was talking to my dad and we found this rule in the NCAA where if it's a different sport, the NCAA will give you a fifth year of eligibility," said Nick. "We thought that was kind of neat."
After finding that out, Nick wasn't ready to give up on his childhood dream just yet.
"I started reaching out to some old football coaches that had recruited me," said Nick. "I was looking at Montana and was actually very set on going there. Then, Notre Dame reached out to me."
Notre Dame, the school he had helped put on the map for lacrosse, the school whose football team he had cheered for every Saturday during his time at Notre Dame, the school he was going to earn a degree from, was offering him a shot at living out his childhood dream.
"After the lacrosse season ended, I had a couple of meetings with the [football] coaching staff [at Notre Dame] and just went over the options between Montana and here," said Nick. "Again, it was pretty much impossible to turn down playing football for Notre Dame."
In the spring of 2015, Nick graduated from Notre Dame with a marketing degree. Shortly after, he returned for summer training camp, trading in his lacrosse cleats for football ones.
"Over the summer, I kind of got the gist and the flow of how [college] football works," said Nick. "But, it is a very different sport."
One of those differences, Nick mentioned, is that football involves less running and more contact than lacrosse, something he enjoys but has had to get used to.
"The lacrosse coaches for four years were telling me, 'Don't hit people that hard, you'll get a penalty,'" said Nick. "And now, it's like, 'Nick, go hit that person as hard as you can.' So yeah, I'm trying to forget everything I've learned over the last four years."
On Texas weekend, game day finally arrived for Nick and the rest of the team. The childhood dream of playing college football was now a reality for Nick, and other first-time college players, as they walked into the stadium from the Gug that Saturday afternoon.
"That was, no exaggeration, the coolest moment of my life," said Nick. "I had an extra pair of gloves that I gave to a kid and his whole family thought it was so awesome. Then, running out of the tunnel to the smoke and everybody screaming, that was just something else. I really wish I had the words to describe how it felt and what it meant, but I don't."
Nick is listed as a linebacker on the current roster and while he hasn't seen any minutes on defense yet this season, he has played special teams in two of the first three games.
"That was incredible," said Nick. "It was kind of tough because on one hand, I was like 'Yeah, I'm in the game, I gotta go hit somebody, I gotta do something.' And on the other hand, it's like, 'I have to stay focused on my role so I don't get yelled at during film.' While it was an incredible adrenaline rush and it was awesome running out on the field, I still had to stay focused."
Nick has certainly experienced the best of three different worlds: Notre Dame, lacrosse, and now football. But, it didn't come without hard work and endless determination to live out his dream.
Once the football season is over, Nick hopes to put his Notre Dame degree to use and enter the job market. But, not surprisingly, he remains interested in playing sports just a little bit longer.
"If I had to guess right now, I'd be playing pro lacrosse for at least a couple of years, something to tell the kids about and keep the dream alive of playing sports," said Nick. "My priority right now is finding a good job and getting my career off on the right foot but I also want to end up playing pro lacrosse for a few years."
Whether he plays professionally or not, Nick already has a lot to tell his future kids about. Notre Dame lacrosse player, Notre Dame football player and, most of all, University of Notre Dame graduate.
Last Saturday, while our football team was at Virginia and I was watching the game at home, I had the opportunity to sit back and witness the obsession with college football that takes over the Twitterverse every weekend.
On my timeline, specifically, I had a first row seat to the obsession with Notre Dame football.
From an outsider's perspective, it's exactly that - obsessive. And if you really think about it, it is weird; why do people care so much about Notre Dame football?
It's really a question that could be asked about diehard fans of any sport. The simple, and true, answer is that sports are just innately emotional. They provide fans a sense of identity and pride. Not to mention, sports are just simply entertaining. But, all of these generic reasons really don't suffice when trying to answer the question, why Notre Dame football?
People might say it's the tradition, the legacy, or the rich history. Yet, it's so much more than that. It's extremely personal for every person.
When you're a freshman at Notre Dame and you start making friends, you find that there is this scale of students and how strong their connection is to Notre Dame football. On one extreme are the students whose great great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, and father all played football at Notre Dame. On the other end are those students who never identified as a Notre Dame football fan until they were forced into it after receiving their acceptance letter.
Wherever you may fall on the scale, or if you're one of the loud and proud subway alumni, everyone has their own personal reason for loving (and obsessing) over Notre Dame football. It is so much deeper and bigger than just a sense of pride and an emotional connection.
For me, above all else, Notre Dame football has been a huge part of the strong relationship I have with my dad. While our Notre Dame degrees are a commonality that we are both immensely proud of, Notre Dame football has played a large role in forming the bond that exists between us long before I received my degree.
It started when I was young and we would watch the games together every Saturday. I didn't know much in kindergarten but I knew I was going to Notre Dame for college. Did I know how hard it was to get into? No, but I knew there was Notre Dame football and I knew that Ruth Riley was awesome.
When I finally achieved my dream and enrolled at Notre Dame, my dad and I had a rule that if he wasn't in town for a game or if the team was away, I would call him after the game to talk about it, even if we lost and neither of us had much to say.
Our bond, I'll admit, is more than just Notre Dame football. Growing up, I played AAU basketball and for a good 4 years, our summers consisted of traveling to different basketball tournaments all over the midwest and beyond. My dad was always there on those trips, from Chicago to Atlanta to Tennessee, and he was there in Cincinnati when I shattered my ankle and needed surgery.
AAU tournaments don't exist in my life anymore but I like to think Notre Dame football has allowed us to keep that tradition of traveling the country together alive. We went to Oklahoma during my sophomore year to see our team take down the Sooners. Of course, that year, we also traveled to Miami for the National Championship. Last year, my senior year, we went down to Florida State together and this year, we will go to Clemson (let's pray for a W in South Carolina because our road record is currently a disappointing 1-2).
I guess my point is that Notre Dame football is so much more to us than just a team. Of course, all of that emotional pride stuff is a huge part of it but, to put it simply, it's been a way for me to hang out with my dad.
Of course, we talk about more than just Notre Dame football but I think about 90% of our conversations, at least during the fall, include something about Notre Dame football.
I think I'm writing all of this now because I never truly realized what Notre Dame football meant to me until I wasn't a student anymore. When you are a student and you try to think about why it means so much to you, it's kind of an obvious answer. It's your school; you're surrounded by it constantly and it's just a part of you.
Of course, Notre Dame is still a part of me and always will be. It's still my school, but it's not the same. The student goggles are off now and, even though I work in athletics and am still surrounded by it, I finally have a different point of view. I can see how huge this tradition really is and see how much it really means to people. Not only to fans across the country but to me and my life.
It seems kind of silly to make such a big deal out of one college football team. But, it becomes special when we can look past the flair and hooplah of college football and remember why we care so much in the first place. Because, whether or not we like to admit it, we care a whole lot. And that's okay.
My stories don't even begin to compare to the countless I've heard from so many fans about why Notre Dame is so special to them. If you'd like to share, I'd love to hear your story. After all, everyone has one.