While our student-athletes have been working hard in preparation for the start of the fall season, we've also made a few improvements in anticipation of the new school year.
From this point forward, Irish UNDerground will be utilizing the Wordpress platform powered by NBC Sports.
Here's a look at our three new blog websites:
UNDerground: Notre Dame Athletics
Strong and True: Notre Dame Football
Irish United: Notre Dame Men's and Women's Soccer
Go ahead and bookmark these now. With features, videos, photos, commentaries and news from inside the athletic department, we are committed to bringing you coverage of Notre Dame athletics unlike any you can find elsewhere.
Get ready. 2012-13 is going to be an exciting year to be Irish.
Though it should probably come as no surprise, Irish women's hoops great Ruth Riley ('01) received another nice honor this week. The WNBA recognized the Chicago Sky center's commitment to the community with its WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for June.
Here's more from the press release on the WNBA website:
Since joining the Chicago Sky, Riley has assumed a leadership role off the court in the team's community outreach programs, while continuing to support health-related issues globally through her work with Nothing But Nets and Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign. This marks Riley's third Community Assist Award, having previously been honored in 2006 and 2008.
Understanding the importance of being a positive role model for young girls, Riley visited two Chicago area high schools where she spent one-on-one time with students. During her visit with 9th through 11th grade girls at Chicago North High School, Riley shared personal life lessons with the group and emphasized the importance of setting goals and making positive choices. She also spoke with females students at Rowe-Clark High School and hosted a special clinic for the school's girls' basketball team.
Last month, Riley was inducted into the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame. Fighting Irish Digital Media captured the moment, and you can watch more from that induction ceremony in the video below:
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.
Following a particular college or university is a pastime for all sports fans as they go through their stages of adolescence. Whether it be where their parents went, where they live or just an obsession with a particular team for no apparent reason, all fans share random, common bonds with people who may be miles away.
As a child I grew up watching the 'Old Ball Coach' roam the sidelines for the Florida Gators (dad's alma mater), Tom Coverdale run the point for the Indiana Hoosiers (childhood team) and Autry Denson and Jarious Jackson run the option for the Irish (location). As I got older, the times and games I remembered turned in to moments in which to this day I have not forgotten.
Moments are what make us as sports fans keep coming back for more, albeit there were just over 28,000 paying customers in attendance at Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle's perfect game in 2009, as time goes by there will be 100,000 people claiming they were at Comiskey Park (I have and always will call it by this name) that day. I am not a fan of this particular Chicago area sports team, yet I will always remember where I was and whom I was with when this great moment took place.
I have many great and historic moments that I remember from the past 20-some years I have been a fan of Notre Dame. I have recollections that I would rather forget (Jackson's safety against LSU in 1998 in which he hurt his ankle and was out the following week) and those in which I wish I could relive over and over (Notre Dame women's basketball team taking down #1 UConn in 2001 at the Joyce en route to the program's first NCAA title). For both of those games, I remember where I was (Jackson's injury - celebrating Thanksgiving in Indianapolis, women's basketball vs. UConn - at game behind basket in first row).
This past athletic season had a fair share of 'Notre Dame Moments' in which I was able to witness; here are my top five ...
5. Frank Dyer, The All-American Guy
NCAA Men's Swimming Championships
March 24, 2012
In the 53 years of men's swimming at Notre Dame, the Irish have accomplished a lot - five BIG EAST Championships, five BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors and over 50 all-BIG EAST honorees - yet they had never had any swimmer garner national All-American recognition, until Frank Dyer's swim in Federal Way, Wash., this past season.
Dyer had been training all year long for the opportunity to make his mark in Notre Dame swimming lore. On a Friday evening in late March, he got his opportunity. As he stepped upon the blocks in the 200 freestyle finals, Dyer had the weight of the entire program on his back and he didn't disappoint.
The gun went off and just one minute and 34 seconds later, Notre Dame had its first All-American, Frank Dyer.
4. Freeby Calls Bull's Shot
Baseball vs. Pittsburgh
March 23, 2012
It may not have been George Herman Ruth calling his shot or even Jake Taylor, but Notre Dame baseball radio announcer Chuck Freeby opined between innings on the broadcast that the Irish would defeat the Panthers in the bottom half of the ninth inning on a home run from freshman Ryan Bull.
What happened next was truly amazing as Bull hit his first career home run at the exact time in which Freeby 'called it.'
3. Squeezing The Orange
Men's Basketball vs. #1 Syracuse
January 21, 2012
On a cold January day, the Irish, with a record of 11-8, welcomed the undefeated Syracuse Orange into Purcell Pavilion for a BIG EAST conference clash.
As the game wore on, Notre Dame played more like the Harlem Globetrotters to Syracuse's Washington Generals.
Building a lead as big as 18 points, the Irish went on to win 67-58 in front of a sold-out crowd. This was the eighth time that the men's basketball program had knocked off the top-ranked team in the AP poll in its history.
2. Big Shot Britt
Women's Basketball vs. Connecticut
April 1, 2012
In the fourth meeting on the season between the two squads, the teams went back and forth throughout much of the game.
The Irish squandered a five-point lead late to find themselves down two with just under-10 seconds to play when Skylar Diggins drove the length of the court and put up a runner in the lane, the attempt would miss and fall in the hands of senior Natalie Novosel. After gathering the rebound, Novosel put the ball up on a reverse lay-up, to see the ball drop with just a few seconds left on the clock to send the game to overtime.
The Irish found themselves down, three, early in overtime. That's when senior Brittany Mallory, who was shooting 1-11 in NCAA Championship play prior, was found in the corner for an open three, which she calmly drained.
After a rebound on the defensive end, Diggins quickly pushed the ball up the court and again found Mallory on the wing for another trey. The clutch play from their scrappy, sharpshooting senior would catapult the Irish to their second NCAA Championship game in as many years.
1. The Dedication Game (Holy War on Ice)
Hockey vs. Boston College
November 18, 2011
Taking part on the Friday night before their respective football teams clashed in the 'Holy War' on the gridiron, the hockey squads took to the ice for the 'Dedication Game' of the 50-million dollar Compton Family Ice Arena.
The sold-out crowd of 5,022 was treated to one of my favorite moments of my time at Notre Dame as the longtime tenor for the Chicago Blackhawks, Jim Cornelison (an Indiana University graduate), bellowed the National Anthem and kicked off a night full of moments.
This 'Notre Dame Moment' looked like something right out of the third Mighty Ducks when Bryan Rust capped off the game with a sudden-death victory goal with just 1.1 seconds left in overtime to give the Irish the 3-2 win.
These are just a few of the great Irish athletics moments from the past year. Every particular moment has its key players - Ryan Bull, Brittany Mallory, Frank Dyer - but the big question in sports has always been, "how will history remember you?" I'm sorry to say to all the athletes out there, it's not always your full athletic body of work that gets you remembered, sometimes it's just that one 'moment' where everything seems to come together and 20 years from now everyone is still talking about it, and all of Irish nation claims to have been there in person.
As the ghost of George Herman (Babe) Ruth told Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, "Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die."
- Aaron Horvath
This afternoon, Notre Dame senior Natalie Novosel and graduate student Devereaux Peters are at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. for the 2012 WNBA Draft. Their Fighting Irish playing days are over, but the all-BIG EAST first team selections were each top-10 draft picks, with Peters being selected third by the Minnesota Lynx and Novosel going eighth to the Washington Mystics.
Novosel was recently featured in an article by Andrew Lovell on ESPNW.com. Here's an excerpt from the nice story:
Natalie Novosel collected the loose ball at the top of the key, drove past the taller defender in front of her and set her sights on the basket.
It wouldn't be that easy. Another taller player stepped up, met Novosel in the air and challenged the layup. "Foul," Novosel said. "All ball," the defender shot back. In a move born of frustration, Novosel picked up the ball and fired it at the player's head.
You see, Novosel doesn't hate losing. She despises it. It's a trait her family realized early in her basketball career.
The perimeter defender? That was older sister Shannon, who stands 6-foot-1. The interior defender? That was 6-foot-5 twin brother Nate. And the above scenario -- with and without the hurling of the basketball -- played out thousands of times in the Novosels' backyard in Lexington, Ky.
Visit ESPNW.com to read the whole article, and get ready to cheer on the former Irish stars when the WNBA season starts in mid-May.
One more. It all comes down to this, the final college basketball game of the season. Notre Dame and Baylor will clash in Denver, in what has all the makings of a memorable finale. Two No. 1 seeds, one looking to close out an undefeated and historic season, the other hoping to take care of some unfinished business, dating back to this time last year. Get excited.
Here are ten things to know before the big game:
Tuesday, April 3. 6:43 pm MT (8:43 ET).
Tale of the Tape
#4 Notre Dame (#1 seed in Raleigh Region) - 35-3 overall, 15-1 BIG EAST
#1 Baylor (#1 seed in Des Moines Region) - 39-0 overall, 18-0 Big 12
TV - ESPN/ESPN3. Dave O'Brien (play-by-play), Doris Burke (color), Holly Rowe (sideline) and Rebecca Lobo (sideline).
Radio - Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and UND.com. Bob Nagle (play-by-play).
Baylor leads, 2-0. The Lady Bears defeated the Irish in Waco, Tx. back on Nov. 20 in the Preseason WNIT championship game, 94-81.
What's at stake?
Greatness. Glory. A national championship.
The Irish are seeking to avenge last year's title game loss against Texas A&M, and earn their second championship in program history. The first came in 2001, when head coach Muffet McGraw's team defeated Purdue, 68-66 in St. Louis. Baylor, on the other hand, is looking to become the first NCAA team to ever go 40-0. The Lady Bears are also in search of a second national championship (the first came in 2005).
Opposing Players to Watch
Brittany Griner, Jr., F (23.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG), Odyssey Sims, Soph., G (14.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG), Destiny Williams, Jr., F (10.1 PPG)
The early-morning high school practices, the AAU tournaments, the summer camps, the long, late trips back to campus from mid-week away games - all of that preparation and each of those sacrifices was made in the hope of getting to this point where the Notre Dame women's basketball team finds itself this evening - on the verge of an NCAA championship.
The undefeated Lady Bears are the favorite, that is certain. But perhaps that's not a bad thing for the Fighting Irish. To steal a quote from Kansas head coach Bill Self's pre-game speech, "All the pressure is in that locker room."
Sure, the Jayhawks comeback fell short against Kentucky. But Notre Dame has a tremendous opportunity to take a similar approach - to just go out and play its game. If the Irish can do that, Skylar, Nasty, Dev & Co. very well could be the ones cutting down the net at the end of the night.
- Josh Flynt ('11)
As she has done many times before, Skylar Diggins almost broke Twitter last night. @skydigg4 as she is known by her 189,333 followers, is one of the most popular athletes on the ubiquitous social networking website.
But during and after the Final Four game against Connecticut, it was about more than just the Irish point guard. Brittany Mallory was trending, Notre Dame was trending, it seemed everyone was talking about the Fighting Irish.
My feed was full of congratulatory tweets mentioning @NotreDameWBB and post-game reaction from fans, friends, alumni and celebrities. Here are a few (read: many - more like 35, I think) tweets from last night...
Tweeting is a hobby that some people love, while others loathe. There is little doubt in my mind however, that Twitter was invented for nights and games like yesterday's. Where else can you feel like you're watching the tournament with millions of other fans?
- Josh Flynt ('11)