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Club Sports: Men’s water polo goes undefeated in Alumni tourney

Special to The Observer | Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In a hard-fought game to start the 2012 Alumni Tournament, the Irish pulled out a 10-9 victory against Saint Louis, who finished 13th at the National Collegiate Club Championships. The Billikens started the game out aggressively and took an early lead against the Irish.  But with timely shooting from junior Chris Jennis and freshman Dolff Hanke, the Irish pulled ahead. At the end of the contest, great defense provided by sophomore Jack Turek and senior Dan Geisman proved to be the difference.

In the next match, where the Irish faced some of the most prolific players in recent Notre Dame history, the team took on an Irish alumni team composed of very talented players.  Never once leading in regulation, the team tied up the contest at 13 with 40 seconds remaining in the game.  After missing a last-second attempt, the team entered a shootout with the alumni.  After both teams went four-for-five on their first five shots, the contest entered another round of five shootout shots.  Finally, on the final attempt by the alumni, junior goalie Tate Kernell blocked the shot and won the contest for the Irish. Defensive play by freshman Kevin Balhoff was key in keeping the contest close enough for the Irish to be able to tie the game in regulation.

Coming back after a hard-fought victory the night before, the Irish met the Fighting Scots, the third place team at Division III club nationals. Never really being challenged by the opponent, the team dominated most aspects of the game in a 10-6 win.  Great defensive play by junior Rob Ray and offensive play by Hanke led the Irish.

After a grueling weekend of matches, the Irish finished the weekend 4-0 with a 8-6 win against ninth-ranked Michigan.  Timely shooting at the end of the game by Turek sealed the victory in the final minutes. 


After qualifying at the regional finals in March, four members of Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s travelled down to Marion, Ind., for the competitive zone finals last Sunday. Junior Mia Genereux started the day in the open fences class, laying down a lovely course to finish in sixth place, with sophomore Katie Walsh following closely in eighth.

In the flat class portion of the day, sophomore Steph Nearhos executed a beautiful ride to finish with third place honors in intermediate flat. Walsh also placed a respectable ninth in the open flat class. To wrap up the day, Walsh took third in the Cacchione Cup class, a combined fences and flat class at the open level. Walsh will continue on to the national finals in Raleigh, N.C., in May to compete in the individual Cacchione Cup championship. 


This weekend, Notre Dame traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the Big Ten Team Race. In light and challenging conditions, the team placed second out of six teams.  Sailing for the Irish were freshmen Mike Flanigan, Claire Lupo and Claire Donavan, sophomore Sarah Eide, junior Annie Murphy and senior Nathaniel Walden.

Women’s Rugby

Notre Dame travelled to Wayne, Neb., to compete in the March Madness tournament, one of the largest spring rugby tournaments in the country. Notre Dame arrived to great fanfare, finding out the games had been advertised across the town. The Irish arrived on the dust-covered rugby grounds early on Saturday to join the hundreds of other rugby players competing on the five different fields.

Notre Dame’s first game was against Oklahoma. Coming out strong, the Irish scored numerous tries against the Sooners.  Tries were made by sophomore Clare Robinson, junior Ashley Okonta, freshman Shannon Kenny and sophomore Elizabeth Peterson, followed by four successful point-after kicks by freshman Claire Kozlowski. With seven minutes left in the second half, the referee consulted team captains about a mercy ruling, but the Sooners refused to give up time playing against the Irish, losing 33-0.    

Notre Dame’s second game of the tournament was against host Wayne State. The game began and no substantial gains were made on either side.  Near the end of the first half, as Wayne State began approaching the try zone, Notre Dame maneuvered the ball out and ended the half with no scores on either side.

As Notre Dame took the field for the second half, constant contact and a Wayne State try forced the Irish to not give up. Okonta then made a break and ran the length of the field, dodging several Wayne State defenders, to score the first Irish try. Kozlowki followed with a beautiful point-after kick to tie the score.  Wayne State scored their second try at the end of the game to win 10-7.   

The Irish faced Mankato for their third game of the day. After two grueling games and one loss, the Irish came back with a vengeance. The first half ended 0-0, with both teams fighting to continue on in the bracket. The Irish came back from halftime with a big push for the first score of the game after having the ball held up in the end zone three times. Kozlowski followed with a successful point-after. Mankato pushed back with a score, but missed the kick. The Irish then put all their effort into defense to prevent Mankato from another score and won 7-5.

The Irish ended Saturday with a special Palm Sunday Mass at the local Catholic church. The pastor held a special Mass with just the rugby team and a few parishioners. Freshman Colleen Tigani and senior Erin Connor were Eucharistic Ministers and other teammates participated in the Passion reading. The priest concluded the Mass by encouraging the team to attend as many Holy Week services as possible and then commented on how proud he was to tell all the other priests that he said Mass for the Irish.

On Sunday, Notre Dame returned to play its final qualifying game against Iowa State. With tries for both teams and successful kick-after points for both, the game was tied in a vicious battle through the end. The overtime was a five-minute sudden death period. A breakaway run by Okonta won the game for the Irish. The Irish scored the try for a final score of 12-7 to qualify for the championship game.

The championship game was against Northern Iowa, the Midwest’s No. 1 team. Northern Iowa, fresh after not playing earlier in the day, came out strong and lived up to its No. 1 ranking. The Irish pushed back hard but were overwhelmed, dropping a 56-0 game.


The men’s C road race at Michigan State kicked off the festivities Saturday morning.  Featuring five miles of dirt roads each lap, Michigan State’s European-inspired course presented unique challenges to riders all day long. After an uneventful first lap, Irish junior David Pratt, sophomore Luke Tilmans and freshman Jim Snitzer hit the dirt section hard, hoping to shed down the size of the field. They formed a break of 12 going into the final lap and gapped four more riders before the final mile. The C leadout train allowed Pratt to dominate the sprint finish by several meters and take Notre Dame’s first C road race victory of the season. Snitzer followed in third and Tilmans crossed the line fifth. Freshman Mike Chifala finished comfortably in a small chase group behind the leaders.

Snitzer won the C individual time trial by over 1:30 with a time that was 11th fastest of any category that day.  On Sunday, Notre Dame’s season-long stranglehold on the C field continued. Pratt completed the weekend sweep, propelled by the work of his teammates. After many failed attempts at breakaways throughout the course of the race, the peloton was intact for a field sprint. Taking third wheel before the final two turns, Pratt shot out of the pack to win the race and get his second win in two days. Snitzer took third and Tilmans fourth, again putting three ND riders in the top five. To date, the C squadron has won three straight mass start races in a row, as well as notching seven more podium finishes.

With graduate student Andrew O’Donnell moving up to the big show, the men’s B squad was down a man but still looked to continue its season-long dominance. In the road race, a three man breakaway quickly went up the road and, rather than giving Notre Dame the opportunity to win another race, the peloton was content to let the move go, despite the best efforts of freshman John Pratt. Senior Nate Lee led out junior Brian Hurley for the field sprint and they took two of the top 10 spots.

In the Time Trial, the B squad shook off its tired legs from working in the road race, with Lee taking first and John Pratt and Hurley finishing second and fourth, respectively. Looking to snag another win after a disappointing road race, the B team was aggressive in Sunday’s criterium winning multiple prime point sprints. Halfway through the event, John Pratt rode himself into the winning break and with Lee and Hurley blocking the chasing field there was never any doubt Notre Dame was picking up another victory. John Pratt easily sprinted out of the break for the win while Lee led out Hurley for sixth place.

Coming in over 18 minutes ahead of the main field, a breakaway containing Notre Dame junior Joe Magro led the men’s A race from nearly start to finish. As early attacks spread riders thin across the central Michigan countryside, dirt flew as Marian and Lindenwood sent waves of riders off the front of the peloton. Riding well in his first A race, O’Donnell kept Magro out of trouble on dirt sections and in contact with the leaders. Ten miles into the race, a group containing four Marian riders, three Lindenwood riders, and one Purdue rider finally broke free of the field.

With an enormous kick, Magro soloed across the gap and the breakaway quickly pulled over five minutes clear. Outgunned at the finish, Magro tried to slip away on the left 300m from the line, but was caught 60m from the finish and held on for eighth place. Showing his time trialing strength, O’Donnell placed third in the individual time trial Saturday afternoon, beating multiple professional riders and only missing the win by 20 seconds. On Sunday, wide and fast roads inhibited breakaway attempts for the first 30 minutes of the criterium, with riders from most schools attempting to lose the field. Finally, a group of five took to a 15-second gap and, with the race going down the road, Magro again found himself crossing a gap to the leaders alone. After making contact, the breakaway began to put significant time into the field, and once joined by another five Marian and Lindenwood riders, the contest was over. Nearly lapping the field, Magro took another top-10 finish while O’Donnell scored valuable nationals qualifying points with a pack finish.

Only two riders, sophomore August Kunkel and junior Rob Piscatelli, represented the Irish in the Men’s D category for the weekend. Kunkel was able to navigate an inexperienced field to secure a top-10 finish in both the road race and the criterium.  He finished strong in the criterium even though he punctured his front tire during the last lap.

After the weekend’s results, Notre Dame held steady to the fifth place conference ranking and moved closer to Purdue in the race for top club program in the Midwest. Magro increased his lead in the Men’s Division II Individual standings.

Ultimate women’s team

Notre Dame traveled to Naperville, Ill., to compete in the Chicago Invite last weekend.

The A squad opened the tournament Saturday against rival Indiana. The women came out strong in the cold temperature and won the game 13-6.  Sophomore Eliza Herrero caught nearly every disk thrown in her vicinity. The Irish went on to face a tough game against Illinois. After going down a few points in the beginning, the women eventually brought the game back to 8-9. However, Illinois used greater consistency to win 10-8.

Notre Dame came out extremely hard in its third game against Northwestern, bidding on defense and swinging the disk on offense to take a 7-2 halftime lead. Northwestern fought back, however, and the score became tied at 11-11. Junior Kelsey Taylor made great cuts while sophomore Kelsey Fink read the disk with ease in the end zone. Northwestern took the win 12-11 after an arduous last point.

In their final game of the day, fatigue got the best of the Irish and they fell to Marquette 9-8. Despite their losses, the women came away with valuable information regarding their future regional competition and played hard throughout the tough matches.

On Sunday, the team found itself in the ninth-place bracket and was determined to claim victory. In their first match against Winona State, the Irish played efficiently to win 13-1. Junior Allie Hawkins made great break cuts while sophomore Mara Stolee was aggressive on defense. The Irish then won games against Dayton and Truman State, 13-5 and 11-3, respectively. Many of the girls fought through tough injuries to aid the team, including senior captain Ashley Satterlee. In the ninth place game, the women came out unfocused and initially went down 4-0. However, they regained composure and played smartly to defeat Ohio 13-7. Senior captain Vicke Hadlock displayed great leadership to help the team get back into the game while junior Kelly Taylor maintained patience to make easy throws into the end zone. Despite their losses on Saturday, the women came away with a perfect Sunday record to take ninth out of 40 teams at the invitational.

The B squad played games against Northwestern B, Western Kentucky and Beloit on Saturday. The women came out strong against a newly-formed Northwestern B squad, losing by a mere point, 10-9. Junior captain Elizabeth Villafuerte sent beautiful hucks long while sophomore Mary Kate Scavo nearly perfected her hammer throws. Although the women did not see any more wins on Saturday, they showcased great spirit and improvement. On Sunday, the women produced excellent play. They won their opener against Western Kentucky 10-8, followed by a win against Illinois B 9-7. Sophomore Kim Kowalski made great throws and long cuts while junior captain Devlin Lynch made impressive plays on defense. The B team eventually placed 28th within the field of 40 and saw a string of wins that strengthened its confidence.

Ultimate men’s team

Both the Notre Dame A and B teams travelled to Naperville, Ill., to compete in the Chicago Invite, the largest ultimate tournament in the country this season. Playing some of the best competition in the Midwest, the A team finished fourth in the 64-team field, while the B team finished 50th.

Notre Dame A started the tournament against No. 2 overall seed Michigan. Despite jumping out to an early lead and holding it for much of the game, the Irish were unable to finish the job and fell 14-12 to the Wolverines. Another close game against Penn State followed, but this time Notre Dame finished strongly to win 13-11.  Next up, the Irish bested Northwestern 13-8 to finish second in the pool and set up a game against Purdue.

The Irish used a quick start to put the game out of reach early.  Despite a few late points by Purdue, Notre Dame won easily 13-7 to put the team in the quarterfinals Sunday morning.  After falling at this round their previous three tournaments, Notre Dame looked to finally advance past the quarterfinals. After a brief lightning delay, the game began with the Irish falling behind early to Tennessee. A late run to tie the game at 16 set up a double game point. After a couple turnovers by both sides, senior Mike DellaPenna connected with fellow senior Will Cernanec in the end zone to give ND the 17-16 win and a trip to the semis. Juniors Dan Bolivar, Zack Woodruff, Jonathan Koch and Charlie Bowen all made great plays throughout the game to set up the victory. The Irish then fell to eventual champion Iowa in the semifinal to finish the tournament. Seniors Adam Barsella, Sean Jackson and Thomas Kenealy all played well the entire weekend, as well as freshman Jason Wassel, Kyle Hill and Erich Kerekes.

The B squad won games against Michigan State B, Washington University B, and St. Mary’s of Minnesota on the weekend to finish with a 3-5 record at the tournament. Impressive performances on the weekend came from juniors Andrew Romero and Nick Ferruolo, sophomores Jordan Lange and Jack Moore and freshmen Steven Zurawski, Peter Hall, Tim Hosty and Keith Podgorski.

The B team will be back in action at the Eastern Great Lakes Developmental conference championships in two weeks, while the A Team will compete at the East Plains conference championship at home April 14 and 15, with a conference championship and a bid to regionals on the line.

Men’s Rowing

This weekend, the Irish split up, with the first varsity and first novice boats traveling to San Diego for the Crew Classic and the rest of the team traveling north to the Michigan Invite. The team rowed to some solid results – the best in club history – but overall was left disappointed.

The first varsity eight cruised to a victory in the heats Saturday, blasting through the field during the body of the race after a slow start, earning a spot in the finals and a good lane. However, the finals did not go as planned. Shortly after a solid start, an equipment failure cost the Irish a boat length on the field and they found themselves down by open water about 300 meters into the race. The boat quickly regained its rhythm and began moving up the field, eventually gaining the lead by a couple of seats with about 300 meters left. The tremendous comeback left the rowers without the gas for a sprint and Grand Valley regained the lead, winning by three or four seats.

The novice eight had a rough start in their heat, but like the varsity gradually moved up on the field and finished with an impressive sprint, taking fourth and earning a spot in the petite finals. In their final, the novice rowers started strong and were in a strong position, but couldn’t pull off a similar sprint and took third in the petite finals.

In Michigan, the second novice boat showed off its speed by dominating Michigan in all three pieces. The second and third varsity boats and the novice four fell to Michigan and Grand Valley as the Irish rowed against the top club programs of the country.

Notre Dame returns to the water April 21 in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the SIRA regatta looking to continue to build boat speed and improve on these results.