Irish cap season with Senior Day upset over top-ranked Tar Heels
Tony Zappia | Friday, May 13, 2016
It was an up and down season for the Irish (14-12, 6-6 ACC) as Notre Dame finished in seventh place in the competitive ACC and earned its 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
Despite finishing in the middle of the pack in the ACC, the Irish produced plenty of highlights this season — most notably, coming off of four straight conference losses, Notre Dame upset then-No. 1 North Carolina, 5-2, in a historic victory on Senior Night. For Irish head Coach Ryan Sachire, beating North Carolina was one of the best moments of the season.
“Clearly beating [North Carolina] on Senior Night in the fashion we did was incredible,” Sachire said. “With all of the seniors contributing the way they did and the way we competed and played, that night was very special.”
Senior Alex Lawson, who clinched the Notre Dame victory against North Carolina, also remembers the match as one of the best moments of the year.
“You can’t ask for anything more than beating [North] Carolina on Senior Night,” Lawson said. “I didn’t know that [my point] would be the deciding point, but I had a feeling that it was important. I knew the team needed the win, and I went out and was ready to do that.”
The Irish got off to a slow start to the season as the team struggled away from home and found themselves unable to compete against the upper echelon of ACC teams. However, after the win over North Carolina and a strong performance in the ACC tournament, it is now clear to Sachire that his team has grown over the course of the season.
“We grew a lot,” Sachire said. “We faced some adversity early on and we didn’t always play our best. What I tell our guys is that it’s all about sticking to the process and working hard. We constantly believed we were a good team, and we just had to find our rhythm. I think lesser teams with lesser guys would have given up but our guys stuck with it, and we grew in terms of confidence, and then finally the wins came.”
Despite the slow start to the season, the Irish came on strong by closing out the ACC regular season with the aforementioned win over North Carolina and a 6-1 win over North Carolina State. The Irish carried this late season momentum into the ACC tournament defeating Duke, 4-1, before falling in a tight quarterfinal match to then-No. 7 Wake Forest, 4-3. Though the season is not over, with the Irish headed to the NCAA tournament, Sachire believes that the team has successfully accomplished its goal of being the most improved team in the country.
“We always talk about process, and, with that, my one goal is to be the most improved team in the country,” Sachire said. “I do think we accomplished that goal. Our team feels like a different team now. We’re confident in ourselves and in each other.
“Certainly we haven’t hit our goal for our position in the rankings yet, but, just like basketball, a lot is riding on our performance in the NCAA tournament,” he said. “A lot of our evaluation is yet to be determined, but, in terms of process and culture, we definitely achieved our goal.”
Notre Dame faces off against Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 14.