For the second time in three years, the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team has earned a spot in the national semifinals. In a game full of momentum swings, the Fighting Irish notched an exciting, 12-10 win over #5 Virginia in the NCAA quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon at PPL Park.
Leading the way offensively was senior Max Pfeifer, who netted three goals and added one assist. Steve Murphy contributed a pair of scores, as well as two assists, while Sean Rogers also notched two goals.
Notre Dame scored six goals in the final period, including one by Ryan Foley that put the Irish ahead for good. After three more scores gave them a 12-8 lead, the Irish survived two late Cavalier goals to pick up the victory.
As Notre Dame athletics so often do, the game created a lot of buzz on Twitter. Here are a few of the many tweets from this afternoon:
Congrats to ND men's Lax, beat Virg. To make it to national semi's next week
Notre Dame joins Loyola (Md.), Maryland and the winner of Duke vs. Colgate in the national semifinals, to be played on Saturday, May 26 at Gillette Stadium (the home of the New England Patriots) in Foxborough, Mass.
There will be much more coverage coming soon, so be sure to follow @NDlacrosse on Twitter, 'like' the Irish on Facebook, and stay tuned to UND.com.
- Josh Flynt ('11)
I'm no lacrosse expert, but after thirty minutes of play, I think one's going to come down to the wire at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
#4 Notre Dame jumped out to a 3-1 lead in its NCAA quarterfinal matchup with #5 Virginia, before the Cavaliers responded with three straight goals. Virginia looked ready to take a 5-3 lead, but a goal was disallowed after a crease violation. A lot can happen in the second half, but if the Irish lead holds up, that may very well turn out to be the turning point in the contest.
The Irish quickly responded with a goal of their own, tying the game at four and taking back momentum. They scored two additional goals in the second quarter to take a 6-4 halftime lead.
First half goal scorers included Max Pfeifer (twice), Conor Doyle, Westy Hopkins, Sean Rogers and Steve Murphy. Pfeifer, Murphy, Jim Marlatt, and Tyler Kimball also added assists on three of those scores.
If you can't catch the rest of the game on ESPNU/ESPN3, make sure to follow all the tweets at @NDlacrosse. Should be a great second half.
- Josh Flynt ('11)
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)
The Notre Dame men's lacrosse team left this afternoon for the City of Brotherly Love, in preparation for its NCAA quarterfinal matchup on Sunday. The fourth-seeded Fighting Irish traveled in style, chartering a flight from the South Bend Regional Airport.
After traveling with football and men's basketball previously, this is my first trip with the lacrosse team. I occasionally covered the Irish for UNDerground during the season, but this is my first experience spending much time around the team and coaches. As intense and focused as they are on the field, they do not take themselves too seriously away from it (just wait until you see some of the defensive players' postseason haircuts).
They're a fun bunch to be around and you can really tell that the lacrosse team is like one big family. Though I suppose that should come as no surprise, having a head coach who has led the program for almost a quarter-century.
Upon arrival at the hotel, the Irish grabbed dinner, before watching film of Sunday's opponent, Virginia, the defending NCAA champion.
It's a city famous for cheesesteaks, but Notre Dame opted for pasta, roast beef, stuffing, potatoes and green beans, among a variety of other delicious dishes this evening.
Tomorrow, it's off to PPL Park for a walkthrough and autograph session. As you may know, it's commencement weekend at the University of Notre Dame. Since the Irish are generally on the road in NCAA tournament play, they have established their own graduation tradition. This year, they'll visit Malvern Prep for a special Mass and ceremony honoring the team's seniors, before a team dinner and more game film.
For head coach Kevin Corrigan, Sunday will go beyond trying to take his team back to the Final Four. The longtime Irish head coach will also be leading his squad against his alma mater, Virginia, where he played and later served as an assistant coach.
Much more coming throughout the weekend - Be sure to follow @NDlacrosse, @NDSportsBlogger, @byrneirish (assistant coach Gerry Byrne) and @fishtastik (assistant coach Brian Fisher) on Twitter, and 'like' the Irish on Facebook for all the updates from Philly.
Catch the game Sunday at noon ET on ESPNU/ESPN3.
- Josh Flynt ('11)
Briana Coyne ('12) is a student worker in the Media Relations office. She recently profiled men's lacrosse goalie John Kemp, who is continuing his family's strong athletic legacy.
Lacrosse, baseball, soccer, football, hockey - name the sport and John Kemp, a junior goalie on the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team, probably played it at some point during his childhood. This comes as no surprise considering he grew up in a household with six older brothers and sisters who all played sports, as well.
"Sports were just a big thing in my family," says Kemp. "We always had a 15-seater van and my Mom would drive everyone around. I literally was in the car for six hours a day picking everyone up and going to practices. I would miss practices for other practices."
With so many practices, scrimmages and games to take all seven of the Kemp children to, it is hard to imagine how the parents were able to juggle all these schedules, but they managed. However, on rare occasions, there were mishaps.
"When we were growing up, there would always be that one time my Mom would forget about someone so we would be left at practice for like two hours," jokes Kemp.
Regardless, the Potomac, Md., native and his siblings continued competing and excelling in sports as they got older.
The athletic achievements of the Kemp family are numerous: Robbie played baseball in high school and was named all-conference; Julie swam for the University of Miami (FL) and qualified for the NCAA Championships in 1999; CJ played lacrosse at Fairfield University and then professionally for the Rochester Rattlers and the Baltimore Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse (MLL); Erin swam for Towson University; Joey, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate and former goalie, was named the 2007 Great Western Lacrosse League Player of the Year and currently plays in the MLL for the Chesapeake Bayhawks after previously playing for the Los Angeles Riptide and Chicago Machine; Elizabeth swam for the University of Florida, was a six-time all-Southeastern Conference selection, and competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials; and John is the starting goalie for the Fighting Irish. If all of those honors were not enough, Julie, CJ, Joey, Liz and John have all been named All-America in their respective sports.
For one family to have so much athletic talent is remarkable, but the Kemp children are not the only athletes in the family. Their father, Robert, played football under Lou Holtz at William & Mary.
"My Dad has some really funny stories about him (Lou Holtz)," says Kemp. "He does a really good impression of him with his voice."
Kemp, who started playing lacrosse at the age of seven, said going to so many practices was hard to adjust to in the beginning, but he soon realized the relationships he gained with teammates and coaches were definitely worth it. Also, being in this athletic atmosphere with his siblings helped Kemp with his own game.
"When you are around sports all the time you think about the game from a young age," says Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan. "You recognize what works and what doesn't work. There is no question that John has benefited from the experience of all his brothers and sisters."
When Kemp was younger, he learned the most from his siblings through observation - seeing his sisters' diligence in getting up at four in the morning for swimming, watching his brothers play on the field, and attending everyone's games.
"Seeing the success they had really helped me," states Kemp.
Not only was Kemp excelling in the same sport as two of his older brothers, he also was playing the same position. With so many similarities, it is hard not to feel the pressure of following in their footsteps, but that did not faze Kemp.
"I think it makes it easier for me, but it also makes it harder," comments Kemp. "Obviously there is a lot to live up to, but it is also something to keep in mind because they have been through it and makes it feel like it is possible for me."
In his sophomore year at Georgetown Prep, Kemp committed to play for the Irish, where his brother, Joey, was the goalie at the time. Because of the quality of education and his brother's experience at the school, Kemp felt Notre Dame was the obvious choice.
"Joey absolutely loved it here," says the younger Kemp. "I always joke around that we have had the same teachers, and he brings up stories about them."
Since they both played goalie for the Irish, it is hard not to draw comparisons. According to Corrigan, both John and Joey have very similar approaches to their position.
"If you were to look at them from 100 yards away and watch them in the goal and watch their mannerisms - the way they move and even their footwork - it is scary sometimes how much they look alike," states Corrigan.
It is not only John and Joey's on-the-field play that is comparable, but also their mental attitude towards the game that has helped them thrive.
"The qualities that most distinguish them are their mental toughness and their ability to keep an even keel and perform at a high level on a consistent basis. They just never get rattled. They are never thrown off their game," adds Corrigan.
With having two older brothers play professionally, Kemp gets plenty of feedback on his performance.
"If John has a bad game, the first guys he hears from are his brothers," says Corrigan.
"They watch my games and tell me what I did wrong," says Kemp. "During our Duke game last year, Joey sent me an email after the first quarter telling me what I was doing wrong. I saw it at halftime and made adjustments."
With the support of his family as well as his own commitment to the sport, Kemp has had a very accomplished career thus far at Notre Dame. He recently was named the 2012 BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year and was one of 25 nominees up for the Tewaaraton Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top lacrosse player. Kemp currently ranks first nationally in both goals-against average (5.95) and save percentage (.641).
For Kemp, his personal statistics are secondary to those of the team. His focus is solely on how he is contributing to the team's efforts and success.
"I don't like to think of personal goals because I really don't care about personal goals," states Kemp. "It just matters what the team does."
His leadership and stability are qualities that his teammates rely on, especially in tough situations.
"He just comes in quietly and does his job," says Corrigan. "I think the guys count on that no matter what is going on. If things are going well or not, John is going to be the same guy, and they can look back, trust him and count on him to be 'that' guy."
Even with all the success he has had, Kemp does not forget to give credit to his parents for their encouragement and dedication.
"I think it is true for me and all of my siblings that we consider our parents our role models. With their dedication in taking us to practices and sending us all to private schools, they have had to give up a lot for us."
Having so much athletic achievement in one family seems almost unfathomable, but the honors and accolades do not lie. And for the youngest Kemp child, he keeps adding to the incredible legacy.
- Briana Coyne ('12)
Chuck Freeby is a 1986 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and the voice of Fighting Irish baseball on Harvest Radio (WHME 103.1 FM) and UND.com. He returns to Irish UNDerground with the latest 'Chuck in the Armor' post, previewing this weekend's series with Connecticut.
For the first time in three years, the Irish enter the final weekend of the regular season not worried about qualifying for the BIG EAST tournament. That doesn't mean there isn't a reason to show up at Connecticut this weekend.
There are a lot of permutations that affect the BIG EAST standings, but everyone will be best served by keeping it simple. If Notre Dame can win this series against Connecticut, chances are the Irish finish no worse than fifth in the BIG EAST. That would surpass the preseason expectations of the league, give Notre Dame 30 wins and make it three straight series wins entering next week's conference tournament.
Tuesday night after the win against Northwestern, Mik Aoki told some of us that he believes the pitching duo of Will Hudgins and Pat Connaughton can have Notre Dame competitive with any team in the country. He believes Adam Norton can beat any team's #3 starter. He's pleased with the development of Sean Fitzgerald and Steve Sabatino as "long relievers". Then Aoki put the caveat on the deal..."as long as we play clean defense."
It's not a news flash to anyone who has followed this team all year. Sometimes, the Irish make errors the way people eat potato chips...one just leads to another and another. As Mik explained on one of the pregame shows last week, it's a matter of looking at mistakes as new opportunities to pick up a teammate...to make the kind of play that bolsters the team. Instead, many times, the body language has been that of "here we go again".
When Notre Dame can avoid that pitfall...when they make one error or none, the Irish are 24-8 this year. Think about it...a team with 19 freshmen and sophomores...and one that had to replace its entire starting staff at the beginning of the year...still wins 75 percent of the game when they play good defense. That's pretty darn good.
Is that good enough to get past Connecticut? The big names like George Springer and Matt Barnes are gone, but UConn still has talent. Second baseman L.J. Mazzilli is likely to be a top-three round draft pick. Speedster Billy Ferriter leads the team with a .340 average and 22 stolen bases. And when you look at the earned run averages of the Connecticut pitchers, they're very comparable with Notre Dame. So what is UConn's Achilles heel? The same as the Irish...the heel of the glove.
Connecticut has made 91 errors...13 more than the Irish. The Huskies are 13-6 when they make one error or less...which also means they've had 32 games where they have made two or more. So, the Huskie faithful are saying the same thing..."if we can only play clean".
Normally, when you go into a tough battle, the phrase used is "it's time to take the gloves off". This weekend, it's time to make sure they're on and used properly.
It's not every game that a 'turning point' comes before the halftime whistle, but in Notre Dame's 13-7 win over Yale, it was a first half goal that sealed the Bulldogs fate.
After clawing back into the game from a 4-0 deficit, Yale looked poised to tie the NCAA tournament first round matchup at five, until the Irish forced a turnover late in the first half. Westy Hopkins was knocked down, but managed to get the ball to Max Pfeifer, who found Sean Rogers for an incredible goal with 7.5 seconds left in the second quarter.
That was the first of five straight goals for head coach Kevin Corrigan's team, which got scores from nine different players, matching a season-high. Jim Marlatt notched his second career hat trick, while Rogers and Conor Doyle added two goals apiece to lead the offensive attack.
The Irish will play the defending champions, #5 seed Virginia in next Sunday's quarterfinals at PPL Park in Philadelphia. That game begins at noon ET and will be televised on ESPNU.
One down, three to go in the quest for a national title. Much more coming on the Fighting Irish right here on UND.com.
- Josh Flynt ('11)
Yesterday, the Notre Dame men's golf team picked up a pair of BIG EAST conference honors for the second consecutive season. Senior Max Scodro was named Player of the Year and head coach Jim Kubinski claimed Coach of the Year.
In addition, senior Chris Walker, junior Paul McNamara III and sophomore Niall Platt joined Scodro on the 14-player all-BIG EAST team.
Keep an eye on the Irish next week at Golfstat.com. They will head to Michigan where they will begin NCAA tournament play in the Ann Arbor region on Thursday, May 17. But first, check out the latest "Student. Athlete. Irish." feature, and get to know more about Scodro off the course.
Check out this great feature on graduate student and two-sport star Brittany Mallory, courtesy of the Fighting Irish Digital Media student crew. Better known for her time on the basketball court, Mallory is also making a big impact on the field for the 13-4 Notre Dame women's lacrosse team.
After you watch the video, there's also a nice article from Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune as Mallory and her lacrosse teammates prepare to take on defending champion Northwestern in a first round NCAA matchup on Saturday at 4 pm ET.
Here's an excerpt from the story. Hersh writes,
The idea of trying lacrosse again developed out of a lighthearted exchange in August between Mallory and first-year Irish lacrosse coach Christine Halfpenny.
"She was joking around, saying when you get finished with basketball, come pick up a stick," Mallory said. "Then it happened, and it's pretty shocking."
Halfpenny asked her players to sign off on asking Mallory to join the team before the two met five days after the basketball title game. Six days later, Mallory made her first of five appearances in the team's last six games.
Earlier today, Danny White ('02) was named the new Director of Athletics at the University of Buffalo. White, the son of former Notre Dame AD Kevin White, played basketball for the Irish after transferring from Towson following his sophomore year. A graduate of the Mendoza College of Business with a bachelor's degree in business administration, White currently serves as senior associate athletics director at the University of Mississippi.
Here's a snippet from UB's on the latest addition to the Bulls' team:
A rising star in intercollegiate athletics, the former Notre Dame basketball player and New Orleans native has quickly ascended the ranks of college athletics leadership.
His many accomplishments include notable success in raising funds for programs at major universities, including the University of Mississippi and California State University, Fresno, and coaching and serving as an administrator at Mid-American Conference members Ohio University and Northern Illinois University. At Ohio, he helped lead the men's basketball team to a Mid-American Conference championship victory and an NCAA tournament berth.