Categories
Sports

Fencers shine on east coast

This weekend, Notre Dame Fencing had two meets on the east coast. The first was at St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York where the men’s team finished 3-2 and the women went 5-0. The men’s two losses came against Ohio State and Columbia. Notre Dame performed well in foil and sabre, but struggled to keep pace against those opponents in epee. Philip Dority (foil) and Luke Linder (sabre) went 3-0 in bouts against Columbia to try and get Notre Dame back into the match.

The Irish had decisive wins over Penn State, Harvard and St. John’s. Stephen Ewart (epee), Sean Moon (sabre), Maruan Osman-Touson (epee), Jonathan Hamilton-Meikle (epee), Marcello Olivares (foil) and Alexandre Lacaze (sabre) all went 3-0 in at least one bout during the tournament. The women’s team went undefeated in Jamaica. Their smallest margin of victory was three (against Columbia) but they beat Harvard by 21 points. Eszter Muhari (epee) and Kara Linder (sabre) went 3-0 in three matches. Amanda Pirkowski (epee) went undefeated in two. Amita Berthier (foil), Miriam Grady (epee), Sedna Gandhi (epee), Paige Luong (sabre), Jadeyn Williams (sabre), Atara Greenbaum (sabre), and Rebeca Candescu (foil) all went 3-0 in one match. Between the two teams in all their matches, they went 43 for 81 in one-touch bouts and 16 for 27 in overtime. The men’s team clinched, when they won, on average, in 21 bouts. The women’s team clinched on average in 20.4 bouts.

The second meet was at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The women’s team finished 3-2 in this tournament, losing to Yale in their first match and Columbia in their last,
each by 1. The men’s team also went 4-1 with their only loss coming against Princeton. Noah Silvers (epee) went 3-0 in that match for the Irish. Kaylin Sin Yan Hsieh (epee), Berthier, Muhari, and Greenbaum all went 3-0 in two matches while Jane Caulfield (foil) went 3-0 in the women’s toughest match of the weekend against Columbia (between the two tournaments, Columbia and Notre Dame went 1-1 against each other).

Hamilton-Meikle and Silvers each got three 3-0 bouts. Osman-Touson went 3-0 in two matches. Dority, Olivares, George Bivins (sabre), and Nick Candela (epee) all went 3-0 in one bout. In the match against Penn, Notre Dame went 9-0 in bouts for epee.In the second tournament, for both teams, Notre Dame went 34 for 63 in one-touch bouts and 9 for 17 in overtime. The men’s team clinched, when they won, on average, in 21.5 bouts. The women’s team clinched on average in 20 bouts.

The Notre Dame Fencing program will host a tournament this upcoming weekend called the Decicco Duals. Students are encouraged to come watch in the Joyce Cetner.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

Lifeless Irish fall to 1-8 in ACC with 84-72 loss to Eagles

It was a tough week for the Notre Dame Men’s Basketball team leading up to Saturday’s home game at Purcell against the Boston College Eagles. After an overtime win against the struggling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Notre Dame could not contain the offense of the 7-13 Florida State Seminoles. Two days later, head coach Mike Brey announced that he will retire at the end of the year after 23 seasons with the team. Despite stellar free throw shooting, the second-fewest turnovers per game in college basketball, and the fourth lowest fouls per game, the Irish have been unable to turn these stats into wins. They started the season 5-0 and went 4-10 overall (1-7 in league play) heading into the Boston College clash. 

And it didn’t get better as they dropped another one against the Eagles, 84-72. When these teams played on January 3rd in Chestnut Hill, the Irish played well through the first 36 minutes, until BC went on a 15-2 run to finish the game. The final score was 70-63. 

This game was a real opportunity for Notre Dame to show what they were made of. Their chances of making the tournament are pretty much zero (technically 0.2% according to TeamRankings.com). Brey and many of the starters are leaving. During warm-ups and the intro, the team’s body language looked defeated. The Eagles’ Quinten Post scored the first six points of the game with two three pointers for the Eagles, and it was silent early in Purcell. 

The Irish kept in it though, and they overtook the Eagles halfway through the first quarter when graduate student Marcus Hammond made a three pointer. Following a trio of three-pointers from fellow grad student Nate Laszewski and a jumper from Dane Goodwin, the Irish had a nine point lead, their largest lead of the game. 

Then the momentum changed and the Irish looked like a completely different team. This seems to be a common theme for Notre Dame this year; when they are feeling it, this team plays well and could compete with anyone. However, they seem to be unable to compartmentalize mistakes. A turnover turns into a run for the other team. A missed free throw causes a scoring drought for the Irish. At key times, the Irish are unable to get out of its own way. The teams went into the locker room at half time with Boston College leading 36-35.

Notre Dame came back out for the second half unable to do anything on offense for five and half minutes until Cormac Ryan went one for two from the line but by then BC had built a thirteen point lead. 

A few minutes later, Laszewski and Goodwin scored eight points in 34 seconds to cut down the Eagles lead just to four with twelve minutes to go. The Eagles were already in serious foul trouble by this point, allowing the Irish to play aggressively. The score remained within a six-point margin until there were two minutes remaining. Laszewski had a career high 29 points. 

Boston College continued to foul the rest of the game ending with 20 total team fouls (sophomore Jaeden Zachery fouled out), but the Irish couldn’t capitalize and went 65% from the free throw line. Boston College shot 88% from the charity stripe. Notre Dame never led down the stretch, as a layup from freshman guard JJ Starling with eight minutes remaining gave Notre Dame their final lead for the night. Notre Dame’s final points came off a free throw by Ryan with two and a half minutes to go. 

This week clearly weighed on the team as they played an uncharacteristically sloppy game with twelve turnovers (above their nine per game average) and missed free throws. After the game, Ryan was clearly disappointed with their performance but promised this team would keep working.

“I think that it’s a tough thing for any human being to do, to kind of persevere through adversity especially when you had expectations that might not have gone the way you wanted to. This is a group that’s very resilient, very high character, very talented and you know we still have a lot of belief in this group… We have no plan on going out without swinging and that’s a fact,” Ryan said in the post-game press conference.  

Brey then spoke about the team’s scoring droughts at times when Boston College had no trouble making baskets (BC was 58% on three pointers). He attributed a lot of their play right now to bad luck (with good shots just not falling for them) and mental blocks. 

“It’s a mental hurdle, I really think and you see it in sports. It’s the worst nightmare for a coach of a group [who is] playing pretty [well],” Brey said. 

He also spoke more about what comes next for the program after his retirement. He said he had spoken with Notre Dame’s three recruits for next season and their families and told them to stick with this program. 

“My number one theme with the parents was just don’t knee-jerk. Finish your high school season, let us get in the process of hiring a new coach and you gotta meet with the new guy. I think they’ll do that.”

The Irish fall to 1-8 in league play and 9-11 overall. The team’s next game is away at North Carolina State on Tuesday.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

Running back Jayden Limar reneges on Irish commitment, flips to Oregon

After receiving 19 offers from top schools including Michigan, USC, Miami and Utah, running back Jayden Limar verbally committed to Notre Dame on May 26, later making his third campus visit on June 10. However, the Washington native took four campus visits each to Pac-12 schools Oregon and Washington. With rumors that he might flip late in the cycle, Limar did exactly that. After taking an official visit to Oregon, breaking policy for Notre Dame verbal commits, Limar flipped his commitment from the Irish to the Ducks on National Signing Day.

The running back from Lake Stevens, Washington, has a 5.9 ranking from Rivals, signaling him to be among the top 300 players in his class and having All-American potential. Limar is considered to be the 144th-best player in the nation and the 2nd-best player coming out of Washington. He is ranked eighth out of all running backs. 

At Lake Stevens High School, Limar ran for 1,703 yards on 230 attempts, including 22 touchdowns. In 2021, he also began working on his receiving game with 369 yards and 4 touchdown receptions according to 247 Sports. The Lake Stevens Vikings have won their conference championship (Wesco 4A) for the past 10 years. Limar also plays basketball and runs track and field.

The 5-foot-11 and 190-pound back was one of two running backs in this year’s Notre Dame class coming into Wednesday. Irish signee Jeremiyah Love (who received a 6.0 ranking from Rivals) will add to the powerful running back room that already includes Logan Diggs, Audric Estime, and Chris Tyree.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

Sullivan Absher signs, adds to Irish offensive line class

Offensive lineman Sullivan Absher officially committed to Notre Dame on National Signing Day. The second highest ranked offensive lineman in Notre Dame’s recruiting class, Rivals gave Sullivan Absher a ranking of 5.8. This means he could be drafted in the early rounds of the NFL draft and is a possible All-American candidate. The Belmont, North Carolina native ranks as the 22nd-best offensive lineman and 7th-best recruit coming out of North Carolina for the Class of 2023. 

After receiving offers from Clemson, Penn State, Stanford, Tennessee and NC State, Absher verbally committed to Notre Dame on May 13, 2022. The 6’7, 285-pound lineman joins Charles Jagusah (ranked 5.9 by Rivals) and interior lineman recruits Joe Otting, Sam Pendleton and Christopher Terek. He and Pendeleton are the only two recruits from North Carolina. The Irish secured both commitments over Clemson. Absher visited both Clemson and NC State three times. 

There are a large number of returning lineman from this year’s team, including three starters. Jagusah and Absher could have a chance of getting some playing time this year if they impress over the summer at camp. Absher’s high school, South Point, rarely passed so it will be interesting to see how he transitions to Notre Dame’s varied offensive schemes. Absher also plays basketball and baseball for his high school. 

Rivals’ Notre Dame recruiting analyst Kyle Kelly described Absher as the “prototypical right tackle [and] just a great athlete.” He could be the successor to current right tackle Absher is known for not just being a great run blocker, but also a fast one. He is sure to become a favorite among the running backs as a result. His size and speed should allow him to stand out on the field and provide extra time to whoever is taking snaps for Notre Dame next year. 

Absher will continue on South Point’s football history. Koren Robinson, drafted ninth overall in 2001 by the Seahawks and a 2005 Pro-Bowler, and Tanner Muse, a two-time national champion and Raiders’ draft pick, both attended South Point. 

Absher looks to continue the Irish’s recent trend of sending offensive linemen into the early round of the NFL. Four Irish offensive linemen earned top-two-round draft selections since 2018.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

Men’s Basketball ships Terriers back up to Boston

The fourth ever meeting between the Irish and the Terriers came on the heels of Notre Dame’s close loss to Syracuse last Sunday. The Irish, 6-2 coming into the match-up, looked to build on their successes seen on defense and from the line, ending the game with a close 81-75 victory. Notre Dame is currently sixth in the country on free throw percentage. All of the starters (graduate guard Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz, freshman guard J.J. Starling, graduate guard Cormac Ryan and graduate forward Nate Laszewski) all have been averaging more than 10 points a game.


Boston University has had a bumpy season so far. They were 4-4 at the start of the game after falling to UC Davis and Milwaukee. Terrier graduate students Walter Whyte and Jonas Harper have been the leading scorers for Boston University all season, with Jones already having two double-doubles thus far. The first half of the game saw the Irish comfortably ahead of Boston with a seven point lead at the end. Although there were several possessions Coach Mike Brey would have liked to have back, the team shot pretty well with Ryan perfect on three of his three-point shot attempts. Freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin, Laszewski and Starling continued the team’s stellar free throw shooting.

Where Notre Dame really shined, however, was on defense. The Irish made the Terrier’s shooters uncomfortable on every shot. All of those contested shots lead to four blocks in the first half. Lubin fouled shooters on layups in their last two possessions of the half, with Leprechaun Ryan and the fans disrupting one of the free throws with their noise. After letting Boston jump ahead at the beginning of the first half, Notre Dame answered with three straight three pointers — one from Cormac Ryan and two from Trey Wertz. However, with 7.5 minutes left in the game, Laszewski was fouled and took a shot to the face. After standing up, he was immediately escorted back to the locker room by training staff. It was a lot quieter in Purcell for the remainder of the game. Brey later said that Laszewski was poked in the eye but expected to be able to play Sunday.

After that, Notre Dame never lost control of the lead, but they were never quite able to put the Terriers away. That being said, the Irish were outscored 46-45 in the second half. Ryan, Wertz and Starling led the Irish in points with 20, 16 and 15 points, respectively. Ethan Brittain-Watts led Boston with 19, while Nevin Zink and Whyte each had 13. The final score was 81-75 Notre Dame. In the post game interview, Ryan discussed how the team responded to the momentum changes throughout the game.


“We’re good at winning close games, that’s a quality that’s helped us and will continue to help us down the stretch,” Ryan said. “I think we’d prefer to not be in close games but getting a win as you know [is key]. We [have to] continue to do our business at home and just find ways to win.”


On Sunday, Dec. 11, Notre Dame will host 7-3 Marquette in Purcell, whose only losses come against Purdue, Mississippi State and Wisconsin, all of whom have received votes to be in the Top 25 Ranking (with Purdue currently at No. 4). Their most impressive win so far this season was against then No. 6 (now No. 12) Baylor.

While on defense, the Irish should keep an eye on Kam Jones and Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who each have been averaging more than 15 points per game. One of Notre Dame’s main strategies for the season has been to limit the number of fouls (although they notched 16 team fouls against BU) so as to limit the number of free throws they allow. However, it may not be the worst idea to temporarily abandon this plan against Marquette’s forward Oso Ighodaro. The 6-foot-9 sophomore leads the team on points from the line (fourth-highest average on the team), but is eight for 22 (36.4%) from the paint line. For reference, the Irish’s own forward, Laszewski, is 87.2% from the line.

Tip-off against the Golden Eagles is at 4pm.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

Irish survive nail-biter vs. Lipscomb on Goodwin’s late three

It was the nail-biter that no one expected. In their first-ever meeting, the Notre Dame men’s basketball team beat Lipscomb, 66-65, Friday Night in Purcell Pavilion. The Irish came into the meeting 3-0 and averaging 83 points a game in wins against Radford, Youngstown State, and Southern Indiana. Lipscomb came into the meeting 2-1 after falling to South Dakota in their season opener.

Despite being the underdog, the Bisons started off well against Notre Dame in the first half, scoring the first five points of the game and staying ahead of the Irish for the first eight minutes of the game. Graduate student guard Cormac Ryan made a three-pointer to tie the game. Although the Bisons scored a quick layup in response, they didn’t regain the lead again until late in the game.

Notre Dame prevented Lipscomb from scoring for nearly six minutes near the end of the first half. Graduate student guard Dane Goodwin was dominant in the first half, scoring 15 points, and accounting for more than half of the team’s overall points at the time. 

Afterward, head coach Mike Brey discussed how it was a priority for the team to limit the number of threes, even if it meant giving up shots in the paint.

“[Lipscomb] is a really gifted offensive team. I told our guys at halftime that they average 80 [points a game] and we have them at 23. They still never really got flowing because they couldn’t make double-digit threes.”

Very few fouls were committed by either team. The first free throws of the game not occurring until graduate student forward Nate Laszewski went three for three five minutes into the second half. He continued Notre Dame’s trend of excellence from the line. So far this season, Notre Dame has made over 85% of its free throws, the second-highest percentage in the country.

Despite the fact that it never felt like Notre Dame lost control of the flow of the game, Lipscomb came back to take the lead with just over two minutes to go by shooting 76% from the floor in the second half. After each team scored once in the late stages, Goodwin shot a game-winning three-pointer with 14.5 seconds to go to give Notre Dame the lead — and the win.

Brey was very complimentary of his grad students and how they handled themselves throughout the game. Brey knew Goodwin’s game-winner was going in as soon as he saw it go up with the night he was having. He was also particularly impressed with the defensive skills and leadership shown by Ryan.

“Ryan has just so given himself to just guard and take away a guy… and it definitely affects his offense and he doesn’t care. As a fifth-year senior, I would think he would care more, but he doesn’t. And in the huddles, when [it wasn’t going our way], he challenged Ven[-Allen Lubin] because [he] had a long stretch there looking for his shot… and set the tone coming out of the timeout. I mean, amazing leadership, and those guys, the big three have ownership of this thing.”

At the end of the game, Trae Benham and Jacob Ognacevic led Lipscomb with 19 points each. Ahsan Asadullah also contributed 10. Goodwin led the Irish with 24 points. Laszewski had 16 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. Freshman guard J.J. Starling also scored 11 points.

Notre Dame will look to stay undefeated when they return to Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday. That night, they will take on 2-2 Bowling Green for the second game of the 2022 Gotham Classic.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

‘Bigger than any one person’: Graves reflects on Notre Dame career

After walking on to the football team in the spring of 2021, safety Mike Graves has enjoyed every moment of his collegiate career. Like many members of the Notre Dame community, Graves’ favorite memories were the two Clemson wins at home, in 2020 and this season. 

“Just the electric atmosphere, so loud. That was just a really good team win. [The 2020 game was a good game too] because it was so close, so back and forth. And then beating them again here at home in a much more dominant fashion was pretty memorable as well.”

Settling the debate, he did say the 2020 Clemson game was better because the Tigers were number one in the country at the time. 

The entire Notre Dame community’s dedication to the program is not lost on Graves who has learned a lot about what this program, and university, means to so many people over the past few years. He recognizes that any team sport will teach a player selflessness and perseverance, but this team really embodies those qualities. 

“What I’ve learned the most about not just playing here and being a part of the program, but at Notre Dame as a whole, is that Notre Dame is bigger than any one person. Being on a team, it’s a collective effort to accomplish a goal, and everyone bonds together to accomplish that goal. But I think that it’s pretty unique at Notre Dame because the brand stands for [so much more].”

The Notre Dame coaches have also played a big role in his development, and Graves is incredibly grateful for their confidence in him.  

“Starting off with my position coach, Coach O’Leary, he always believed in me, from day one, and is always pushing me to be my best. [Coach Freeman] knows and loves everyone and has a belief in everyone. And that’s motivating. You want to play for a guy like that. That inspires me to work hard every day and just do what I can for the team. I’m not a starter, but knowing the role that I have, and do it the very best I can.”

One of Graves’ roles that he thinks is most important is working with the younger guys on the team. 

“I don’t see myself as an older guy above them, but I just try to help them with their transition to college as a whole. And not just how to go about themselves on the field or in practice, but also helping them with any questions they may have about navigating college. I also make sure to have a really positive attitude all the time and a really infectious energy to inspire them to play harder and play to their potential.”

After completing his Master’s of Finance, Graves will look to get into the financial services industry, specifically investment banking.

Categories
Sports

‘It’s about confidence but also humility’: Giarman reflects on time with Notre Dame Boxing

Baraka Bouts began competition at Notre Dame 20 years ago, as a women’s version of Bengal Bouts. The women who have competed have shown that their boxing tournament is just as important as their counterparts’, and now the current leaders are looking to build on these strides even more. 

Cece Giarman is a senior double major in Marketing and American Studies. She is also the vice president of the Notre Dame’s Women’s Boxing Club. After joining the club four years ago as a freshman, Giarman said she is excited for her final year in the ring, and her final opportunity to make an impact on a program that has been so influential on her life. 

Arriving on campus, Giarman knew that she had to get involved in some athletic club and a senior family friend pointed her towards boxing. 

“I’ve always been a part of a team, so coming to Notre Dame without that idea of you know playing a sport with something I was hesitant about just going to college and I was really lucky to find [it] in Baraka,” she said. 

Like most members of the club, Giarman had never boxed before, but soon grew to love the layers of challenge that practicing with the team provided. 

“I’ve always been really into fitness and sports, but the reason I stayed was more than just that physical challenge. It really [is] this trifecta I would say of that physical challenge that comes with boxing, that comes with training for a new sport that I’ve never engaged with, but then going with that mental challenge that’s totally unique to boxing,” Giarman said. “Boxing is very disciplined in a unique way compared to other sports, it’s really about a mix of confidence, but also humility that I had never seen before.”

Although she chose not to compete during her freshman year, it just made her more excited to enter Baraka Bouts as a sophomore. Unfortunately, that tournament was, of course, canceled because of the ongoing effects of the pandemic. 

Last year, she was named one of the junior captains, the first captain in Baraka Bouts History who had not previously sparred or competed in the tournament. She recalls the training and preparation she did in the years before her first round in the ring and remembers always being challenged, but never being put in a position where she or anyone else would get hurt. This trust that was built between her and the coaches, and with herself, gave her confidence during the tournament last year, where she won all three rounds. 

“There was a lot of pressure in the sense that my junior year was helping freshmen girls, sophomore girls, whoever, go through their first spar, and I hadn’t even been in the ring yet and I felt like this impostor. Like wow, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can lead this club when I feel like I don’t actually know that much,” Giarman said. “But you know [more than you think and ] I think that’s something we really tried to make sure every boxer feels because we never will put anyone in a position that they’re not ready for.”

This year, the team has a goal of $75,000 that will go towards building student dormitories for Holy Cross Lake View Secondary and St. Joseph Hill schools in Uganda. Last year, the money raised went towards faculty housing to help retain teachers in an area that is not always safe or easy to travel and as an additional incentive to stay. This year, the funds raised will help build dormitories, which is why some students wouldn’t be able to attend school.

This mission is of personal importance to Giarman. Charity, specifically in Uganda, has always been a big part of her educational experience. 

“In my elementary school, we also did fundraising for [a] Ugandan elementary school, so for me it’s kind of full circle that I’ve been able to feel connected to that part of the world since I was in Kindergarten.”

For the ‘Ginja Ninja’ (her nickname is a reference to Giarman’s red hair), the dedication to this cause and team has had really positive effects in all areas of her life, and is a constant reminder to always be grateful for the position she is in and the opportunities in front of her. 

“I think it really puts in perspective how even on the worst days maybe I’m feeling down because of you know physically I’m sore or I got a test score that I thought I should have done better on or, you know, just general stress to have in college. It really puts in perspective how lucky I am that I get to force myself into that struggle. I have the choice to push myself and I have the choice to, you know, be sore and be stressed about certain things that some people don’t have the opportunity to,” Giarman said. “Putting myself through that mental, physical and emotional challenge is a privilege in and of itself and honestly just makes you want to work so much harder. I think it’s transferred itself to my studies and to the way I approach my relationships with friends just remembering that there’s a lot to be thankful for. If I can be a part of spreading the word about a goal of fundraising that can help change people’s lives and positively impact others, regardless of where they are or who they are, [I will be thankful].”

Going into the tournament next week, Giarman would like to remind the entire campus to come out and support their classmates in the ring. The men’s boxing team has always been very supportive of the women (they each volunteer at the other’s tournaments), but Notre Dame community members don’t always show up to support Baraka Bouts as they do for Bengal Bouts. This is something that Giarman hopes to see change in the future. 

She already sees progress. Long time supporters of Bengal Bouts have started to come to the women’s tournament, and some alumni have even commented that they enjoy watching how much the female boxers listen and take advice from their corners. Additionally, the number of women in the club has continued to grow, even after the pandemic, showing how much excitement Notre Dame has for Baraka Bouts. 

As she enters her final tournament, Giarman is ready to show what she has learned during her time with the team. 

“Ultimately, [Baraka and this team is] really about that self-empowerment that you find by intentionally challenging yourself, intentionally putting yourself in situations that you aren’t necessarily confident in and then finding that confidence in simply participating regardless of how it turns out.”

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

Russo pulls off hat trick against Michigan on Senior Night 

Michigan versus Notre Dame — you would be hard pressed to name a rivalry more classic than this one. The Irish entered this special Senior Night matchup Tuesday leading Michigan 14-3-4 all time in the series. Their last meeting was last year in Ann Arbor where Notre Dame won 3-1. 

The Irish came into the match with some momentum, fresh off two straight wins against University of Illinois Chicago and Virginia Tech. 

The game started slowly. Weather and field conditions were definitely a factor for the players. Slipping and sliding occurred much more frequently than normal due to the wet turf. The weather, however, did not keep fans away. !uite a number showed up to support the four seniors. 

Sophomore forward Matthew Roou had the Irish’s only shot on goal in the first half; however, it hit the goal post and bounced away. Nicholas Kaloukian, freshman forward for the Wolverines, scored the only goal of the half giving the now 4-9-3 Wolverines an early edge on the Irish. He was assisted by Cameron Martin. With five minutes left in the half, senior defender Reese Mayer received a yellow card, the only penalty thus far.

The Irish bounced back early in the second half with junior forward Daniel Russo drilling an unassisted striker into the back of the net without goalkeeper Ethan Wood laying a finger on it. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, this victory was short lived. A few minutes later, Michigan forward Christian Pulselli scored, assisted by freshman Nick Cassiday. With seven minutes left to go, Russo scored again off the assist from Roou to even the game up. Then, less than two minutes later, the same two paired up for another goal to give the Irish the lead. This was Russo’s first hat trick and the first for Notre Dame this season. The final score was 3-2 Notre Dame. 

For a slow start, the second half was a thriller. The Irish fans who endured the rain echoed throughout the stadium. 

After the game, Russo was excited about the result and grateful to be out there playing with his teammates. 

“There’s just something about Michigan that gets me fired up I guess,” Russo said, “Last year, I had two assists. This year, three goals, but I couldn’t have done it without the guys.”

Head coach Chad Riley offered similar thoughts on cohesion of this team, particularly the older players. 

“They have been through a lot, competing in Covid, all the stuff [that everyone had to do]. I think they set the tone for how close our team is and how much fun they have being together,” he said. 

Midfielders PJ Bujouves and Ethan O’Brien and defenders Aaron Hill, Reese Mayer, and graduate student Mo Williams all played their final regular season game in Alumni Stadium (and potentially their last game ever), unless the Irish host a match in the post season. After facing Pitt next week, the Irish will enter the ACC tournament to try and fight for a spot to compete for the national title. 

This week, the Irish will travel east to play at Pitt in their final regular season game. The 7-3-4 Panthers most recently beat Virginia Tech and Duquesne, while their game last week against Duke ended in a draw.

Notre Dame will look to build on what they’ve accomplished as a team to get a win Friday Night.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

Herko: Will the next Michael Mayer please stand up?

After the abysmal Marshall game that culminated in Tyler Buchner’s shoulder injury, no one would blame any Notre Dame fans who decided to check to see when basketball season started. Buchner’s replacement, junior Drew Pyne has been up and down for sure, but there has definitely been some great improvement since his interception in the fourth quarter on that terrible day. But, how much of this improvement is a result of increased reps at practice that comes from being the starting quarterback versus having the benefit of a future first round draft pick in Michael Mayer on call whenever Pyne gets into trouble?

Mayer is certainly the star player on this inconsistent Irish offense, but with him on his way to the NFL, who will the Irish rely on next year? If Pyne is to be the starter next year, which would make sense because he has far more game experience than Buchner now, this is the time he should be building better chemistry with his younger wide receivers and tight ends to see real cohesive play next season. 

For every game except his first as a starter against Cal, Mayer has been on the receiving end of the majority of Pyne’s passes. At North Carolina, just under a third of Pyne’s total passes were to Mayer, while the four underclassman receivers combined for 14 catches. 

Against BYU, Mayer caught 11 of Pyne’s 22 passes for 116 of his 262 total passing yards, including two touchdowns. Only nine passes were completed to freshman and sophomore receivers and running backs with Jayden Thomas and Lorenzo Styles leading the pack.

Hosting Stanford, five of 13 passes were caught by Mayer and six others were caught by the underclassman. And in the Irish’s win against UNLV, Mayer caught six of Pyne’s 14 passes. Four passes combined were completed to sophomore Lorenzo Styles and redshirt freshman Jayden Thomas, which totaled all of the passes completed to underclassmen. 

The first problem is Pyne is just not throwing enough. Whether this is by design or is the result of a lot of broken plays, Pyne needs to learn that good things happen faster when you put the ball in the air. If the lack of throwing is commentary on Pyne’s playing abilities, practice more throws during practice reps; We should not be looking to Navy’s offensive schemes as a role model. 

Additionally, lots of short passes especially on later downs will not cut it. Defenses that Notre Dame plays are starting to key in on these patterns. To free up areas closer to the offensive line for runs and shorter passes, these defenses have to respect the deep ball. And they just don’t right now because they occur so infrequently. 

This is not to say that Notre Dame needs to become predictable or aggressively throw downfield on every play — just that the play call and execution need to match the situation. For example, toward the end of the second quarter during the UNLV game, the offense turned it over on downs after two incomplete passes. It was 3rd and 3 (and then 4th and 3) on the UNLV seven-yard line. Pyne threw for the end zone both times when it may have been easier to run or look for a shorter pass. 

Or last week against Stanford, when the Irish completed a five-yard pass on 4th and 7 at the end of the game. This offense can play well –  they just need to make logical decisions based on the looks the defense is showing them. 

Besides the fact that Pyne is just not throwing enough for Notre Dame to be successful against halfway decent teams, he and his younger receivers need to build greater trust between them if there is going to be any chance for good games against Clemson, Syracuse and USC.  Or, even more importantly, for a better season next year. Those teams will be stacked enough on defense that may be able to double team Mayer for large portions of the games, to force Pyne to throw elsewhere. Styles, Staes, Thomas and Merriweather all have flashed at different points this season. The young star power is there in the receiving core. Drew Pyne has to utilize them if Notre Dame football wants to keep winning football games. 

The only way that trust between the offensive skill players is going to form is if it shows up in the stat book. Everyone loves Michael Mayer, but Pyne needs to figure out who his next Michael Mayer is going to be. 

Contact Annika at aherko@nd.edu.

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.