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Students enjoy New Orleans despite loss

Becky Hogan | Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Big Easy Sugar Bowl matchup against LSU was anything but easy for the Fighting Irish, who struggled against the No. 4 Tigers in a 41-14 loss.

Despite doubts about how Notre Dame would perform on Jan. 3, students flocked to New Orleans to cheer on the Irish and take in the spirit of the city.

“I think a lot of us were leery about how we were going to play just because [LSU] was such a highly ranked team,” said junior Holly Christianson. “I was hoping we were going to be able to pull through.”

The defeat was an NCAA-record ninth straight bowl game loss for the Irish.

Christianson said the atmosphere of the game changed drastically for the Irish in the third quarter.

“It was definitely a lot more somber in the second half,” she said.

Sophomore band member Tony Ginocchio said the atmosphere at the game was dismal -much more so than last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

“The Ohio State fans last year were a lot more respectful than the LSU fans,” Ginocchio said. “It was an extremely harsh environment, which made it hard to get through, but we just played louder.”

The most disappointing part about the game, Ginocchio said, was that the players seemed to “give up.”

Ginocchio, a trombone player, is the third generation in his family to play at a Sugar Bowl. His grandfather played for West Virginia’s band in the 1951 Sugar Bowl, and his parents played on the Notre Dame Drum Line in 1981. All three Sugar Bowl games resulted in big losses for the Ginocchios’ teams.

Nearly all of the 380 students in the band played at the Sugar Bowl, Ginocchio said. The University paid for airfare and hotel rooms for all band members and gave them each a $200 stipend, he said.

While in New Orleans, the band visited Holy Cross High School – the second establishment founded by the Holy Cross priests after Notre Dame. The band donated instruments to the school to help rebuild its music program after Hurricane Katrina.

“The entire high school came to watch us practice the first day that we were in New Orleans,” Ginocchio said. “It was a powerful experience for the band.”

Seeing the destruction from Hurricane Katrina was “eye-opening,” senior band member Grant Cummings said.

“The insides of buildings were completely decimated.”

Over in the French Quarter, Bourbon Street was a hot spot for many students who traveled to New Orleans for the game.

“We got there early Tuesday and saw the pep rally and later went to Bourbon Street on Tuesday night,” Christianson said. “We saw everyone on Bourbon Street.”

Cummings said it was exciting to be in New Orleans in the days leading up to the game.

“The atmosphere in the city was great, and there was lots of entertainment and music.”

Although she felt Notre Dame students were well received in New Orleans, Christianson said she did run into trouble with pick-pocketers.

“I was wearing a wristlet and had my credit card and Notre Dame ID stolen out of it while I was wearing it on my wrist,” Christianson said.

Ginocchio said that he and other members of the band were warned not to wear a lot of Notre Dame gear around New Orleans by University staff and Louisiana police officers.

“It was definitely an away game for us and a home game for [LSU],” Ginocchio said.

Despite the loss of both the game and her cards, Christianson thought the trip to New Orleans was worthwhile.

“We had so much fun going down there,” Christianson said. “It was just fun being with Notre Dame kids out of the school environment. It was definitely a blast.”