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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish remember trip to Japan last summer

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rattling off win after win, the No. 2 Irish appear to have avoided any title game hangover, a feat due at least in part to the team’s early offseason trip.

Only one day after a heartbreaking 6-5 overtime loss to Duke in last year’s NCAA championships, the Irish (6-0) regained their confidence and enjoyed a much-needed break during their trip to Roppongi, Japan, a district on the outskirts of Tokyo.

The trip was the most recent installment of a lacrosse tradition in which Notre Dame travels to a different location once every four years. Coming immediately on the heels of a loss in the program’s first ever championship game, last year’s trip took on added significance.

“It was really about as good of a thing as you could have planned,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We got a chance to go over there and really enjoy what we had just been through for the last month and celebrate what we did. Yeah, there was disappointment as well, but … it was better to be together with that disappointment than for everybody to have headed off for the summer, and we wouldn’t [have seen] each other until this fall.”

While visiting Japan, Notre Dame played a schedule that consisted mainly of local college teams, but also included two matchups against Japan’s national team, both of which the Irish won.

Sophomore attack Ryan Foley says that the overall atmosphere of the contests gave the players an opportunity to retake the field in a stress-free environment.

“It was good to play right after the national championship — just to play in a kind of loose atmosphere and just have fun,” he said.

That is not to say that the matches were uncompetitive. Foley said that the college teams, and especially the national team, showcased proficiency in the expanding sport.

“We were actually very impressed with the level that they were at considering how little experience most of them had playing,” Foley said. “The competition was really good. They had a different style, which was fun to see, but we were definitely impressed with how far along a lot of them were.”

The Irish also held instructional clinics for the younger Japanese boys, and Foley said the participants took an immediate interest in the game of lacrosse.

“We ran a clinic for the younger guys after one of our games,” he said. “We were really impressed with how hungry they were to learn the game.”

While acting as teachers of the primarily North-American sport, Corrigan said that the Irish were in Japan first and foremost as students.

“We don’t take those trips as much for the lacrosse benefit as much as for the overall educational benefit and the teambuilding,” he said. “It is such a great experience — it is such a great thing for a team to do together.”

The players had ample opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of Japan, visiting a spectrum of local sights and even lodging with residents of the city.

“We got to visit various cultural staples,” Foley said. “We got to see some temples, we got to tour some towns. We kind of split up and got to experience the culture first-hand and the day-to-day life of those people over there. It was incredible. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Considering their newfound connection to Japan and its people, the Irish players and coaches said they have a special cause for concern following this month’s earthquake and tsunami. The team’s main contact during their time in Japan is safe, but he has been relocated by his company to Hong Kong for the time being.

“He said as far as his personal situation, he’s fine,” Corrigan said.

Following their 8-3 win over Rutgers last Sunday, the Irish are currently at the midway point of their season. They look to continue their successful campaign Saturday when they host Villanova (7-2).