March 23, 2017
By John Heisler
How was spring break?
That question qualifies as a common one on college campuses these days.
For the University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team—including nine days on the road and games at Denver and Virginia—the mid-portion of its trip featured lots of changes.
Thank winter storm Stella for that.
After playing the Pioneers Sunday afternoon (March 12), the Irish originally had planned to fly to Baltimore late Monday, practice Tuesday and Wednesday at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore, make a visit to Under Armour headquarters Tuesday and spend the afternoon and early evening on the Capital Mall in Washington, D.C.
The team had slated a Wednesday night bus trip to Charlottesville and a Thursday visit to Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home just outside Charlottesville) in advance of a Saturday night matchup with the Cavaliers.
But, in the midst of the Denver contest, the Irish were informed that impending winter weather on the East Coast already had forced cancellation of their Monday flight.
Many of the logistics changes fell into the lap of Irish lacrosse operations director Jon Rodak.
“I missed the entire third quarter of the (Denver) game because I was on the phone with Anthony Travel working on the hotel situation so we could stay in Denver,” he says.
The Notre Dame party quickly made plans to retain rooms at its Denver hotel for Monday and Tuesday nights. Irish coaches and staff members arranged practices and they set up a team bowling event Monday night after visiting the Colorado Children’s Hospital earlier in the day. After a newly arranged practice Tuesday at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, the squad headed south to Colorado Springs for a touristy stop at Garden of the Gods. Charlie Leonard, a freshman on the Irish squad, is from Denver, so his family played host to dinner for the team Tuesday night.
“In some ways we couldn’t have gotten stuck in a better spot. We had a variety of connections that helped it all work out,” says Rodak.
And it hardly proved a tough trade for the 70-degree weather in Denver compared to snow and 30s in Baltimore.
The Irish went back to Valor Christian for a Wednesday practice, then split the team to eventually fly late Wednesday on two different fights (one direct and the other via Atlanta) an hour apart to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Notre Dame on Monday had found a hotel in Raleigh for Wednesday night and the Irish also arranged a practice Thursday morning at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh. Kevin Corrigan’s club watched Notre Dame’s NCAA first-round men’s basketball game against Princeton over lunch before heading by bus to Charlottesville.
It was just another average week in the life of the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team.
The number-one ranking in men’s lacrosse has been as elusive as a wet noodle so far in 2017.
Here’s a timeline of how the Inside Lacrosse media rankings have played out so far this year, with Rutgers this week already qualifying as the fifth different team to hold the top spot:
--Preseason: Defending NCAA champion North Carolina held the number one slot but dropped out of that spot in the first regular season poll despite winning its fist three games.
--February 13: Denver took over the number-one ranking in the first week of the regular season but lost it despite defeating Duke that weekend.
--February 20: Maryland became the third number one of 2017 and actually held onto the slot for a second week after winning its first four games.
--February 27: Maryland again stood atop the poll but lost that ranking after falling 5-4 at Notre Dame on March 4.
--March 6: Unbeaten Notre Dame claimed the number-one ranking, then lost it after an 11-10 loss (on a last-second Pioneer shot as time expired) at Denver on March 12.
--March 13: Denver jumped back on top for a second time, then fell out after a 16-7 loss at unbeaten Ohio State on March 19.
--March 20: Unbeaten Rutgers became the fifth different program to try it at number one. The 8-0 Scarlet Knights play at Delaware (6-3) Saturday.
Rutgers is one of four remaining unbeaten Division I teams—joining 9-0 Ohio State (Notre Dame’s opponent Saturday at Arlotta Stadium), Penn State (8-0) and Hofstra (7-0). Hofstra plays St. John’s Saturday, while Penn State meets Cleveland State.