Crimson red to Irish green: Sot shines for Notre Dame

The 2022 off-season saw definitive upheaval for Irish football in every sense of the word. A new head coach, new coaching staff, a new starting quarterback, and then another one two games into the season.

Harvard graduate transfer punter Jon Sot became a major player in this upheaval. No one expected the Irish to start the season 1-2 and need a new quarterback after two games. But now, that that is the reality Irish fans live in, they’re looking for reliability. Sot has been able to fill that need for consistency.  

Sot has taken 19 punts on the season, more than half of those placed within the 20, including all four punts he took against Marshall. In the season opener at Ohio State, the former Ivy League punter unleashed a 75-yard bomb, and he averages about 45 yards per punt. 

Initially, Sot said he was nervous to come into the Irish locker room. However, he found that this game is life to everyone at Notre Dame, and they’re welcoming because of that. 

“It’s been awesome,” Sot said during camp. “Football-wise, it’s been great. The facilities here are awesome. The coaches are the best around. The guys on the team are so dedicated to this, you know, they love this. This is their life. Being able to come in here and be a part of that is incredible. I feel like I belong here, they’ve made me feel that way. I can’t wait to see what this team does.”

Despite how the season opened, that energy and that excitement haven’t faltered. Sot said he’s seen where the good has come through. 

“I love it here,” Sot told Irish Sports Daily. “Not the start we hoped for as a team. Special teams-wise [though], we’ve done a good job. [But special teams] coach [Brian] Mason tells us being good isn’t good enough. We want to be the best of the best. We want to be elite. There’s improvements to be made all around special teams.” 

For himself, Sot says he could be more consistent than he has been thus far, something he wouldn’t have been able to see in himself earlier in his career. 

“When I was young as a freshman, I wasn’t able to find my deficiencies,” Sot said. “Now that I’ve been in college for quite a while, I’m able, when I hit a bad punt, to figure out what I’m doing wrong and that’s been the most helpful thing for me.”

Making those adjustments required Sot to rely mostly on his confidence and putting the work in, he said. 

“Being a fifth-year guy, I’ve played college football. It might not have been on the same stage but I’ve been out there and I’ve prepared for different teams … I’m confident in what I do,” Sot said. 

Before he joined the Irish, Sot found success at Harvard too, albeit on a smaller stage. The 5-foot-10, 198-pound New Jersey native matched this year’s longest punt in his freshman year and punted farther than that in his sophomore year. His average hovered around 40 yards at Harvard. Now three games in with the Irish, that average is up 5 yards. But he has seen the most improvements over the years with his placements. Sot went from no placements inside the 20 to 10 in just three games. Those 10 punts tie him second in the nation.

Sot’s numbers have improved from his Harvard days in spite of a more intense stage, going from a crowd of about 20,000 people per game to close to 100,000. 

“When I was a kid, it was the moment you dream of, just being able to run out there but you’ve got to be able to settle that down and go do your job. That’s been the biggest change for me, just the atmosphere and seriousness of this level of football.”

Making that adjustment required Sot to dial in and rely on both the players around him and his coach, Mason.

“I’m fortunate enough to have great blocking and a great special teams coordinator that trusts me,” Sot said. “I’m especially thankful for [long snapper] Michael Vinson, he’s made my job so easy.”

Off the field, Notre Dame is also where Sot wanted to be, he said. The graduate student will complete a master of science in management program at the end of the year. He said he’s about to declare a finance concentration and is looking forward to finishing that second degree. 

“For me, aside from the football, another reason I was attracted to here was being able to pair Harvard and Notre Dame with my two degrees. That’s really something I’m proud of,” he said. 

Sot takes pride in his work both on and off the field. He says his well-placed punts are just as exciting as the game changing plays.

“Putting them inside the 10, for me, is like throwing a touchdown or getting an interception because that’s what I do, so I take pride in that,” Sot said.


Breaking: Buchner out for the season with shoulder sprain

At Monday’s press conference, Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Marcus Freeman announced that starting quarterback Tyler Buchner would be out for the remainder of the season. The sophomore suffered a high-grade shoulder sprain, an injury, Freeman says, Buchner will have surgery for and the recovery will take about four months.

The sophomore led the Irish offense for the first three-quarters of Saturday’s home opener against Marshall before he took a major hit in the fourth quarter on his 13th carry of the day. Buchner took off on a draw to the left and was crushed under two Marshall defenders along the Notre Dame sideline.

The signal caller had been 18 for 32 on completions with 2 interceptions. He led the Irish in rushing yards and added two rushing touchdowns to his tally before unceremoniously exiting the game, with Drew Pyne taking over.

According to Freeman, the Irish will turn to junior Drew Pyne as the starter going forward with freshman Steve Angeli as the backup.

“We are still very optimistic and very positive about our future,” Freeman said, adding he trusted both Buchner and Pyne to take the Irish through the season.

Freeman says Pyne will go with the ones and Angeli will go with the twos, splitting reps around 60/40. Under Pyne, 0-2 Notre Dame will take on 2-0 California at home on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2:30 p.m.


Irish football trampled by Thundering Herd, start season 0-2

Notre Dame football fell to Marshall on Saturday afternoon, 26-21. This is the second Irish loss of the season, and the third of Marcus Freeman’s tenure as head coach.

“It’s never easy to come in here after a loss, no matter to who, it’s disappointing,” Freeman said. “You know, we didn’t execute and it comes down to execution. We did not execute the way we needed to win in this game. And so we have to look at ourselves as individuals just as a team. We all have to look at ourselves, starting with the head coach on down and say, ‘Okay, what do I have to do? What do we have to do to fix the issues that we’re having?’”

Notre Dame took the ball to open the game. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner found sophomore wide receiver Lorenzo Styles in the air twice for the first two first downs of the game. But that momentum didn’t last long as the game started slow. Neither team was able to score in the first five drives, leaving the first quarter scoreless. But it was Marshall who broke into the end zone first, and that lead would ultimately be enough to carry them to a win.

The Irish took an attempt on fourth down. Buchner found graduate student Braden Lenzy down the sideline. But the wide receiver couldn’t get his feet down in bounds. Turnover on downs for the Irish. Ultimately, neither team could capitalize on this as Marshall turned it over on downs seconds later. After failed rushing attempts, and a sack, graduate student punter Jon Sot placed the Herd at the 21.

The Herd pushed forward on the back of Caleb McMillan who snagged two first downs into Irish territory. The Irish failed to tackle throughout the drive, giving up what looks like a touchdown only for it to be called back due to illegal motion on Marshall’s side. Jayden Harrison reels in another first down from Henry Colombi to put Marshall in the red zone to start the second. Laborn takes it up the middle for those four yards to break the scoreless tie. Up six, Marshall kicker Rece Verhoff missed the PAT, wide right. 

The Irish came out swinging in their first possession of the second quarter. Junior running back Chris Tyree returned the ball 32 yards to the Irish 33, followed by Styles snagging 22 yards. The momentum was squashed though when Micah Abraham stepped in the path of a pass to Lenzy at the Irish 48. 

Still, the defense came up with the stop again, forcing a punt from Marshall. Both teams exchanged punts again after that.

With 5:03 left in the half, the Irish ran an early two-minute drill after a Marshall punt. Notre Dame started the drive from their own 44 with a 14-yard rushing first down from Buchner. Buchner went again for a seven-yard gain to the 36. After an offsides call, Buchner completed a first down pass to junior tight end Michael Mayer for 18 yards. Buchner found Mayer again, who shook off a defender, to make a 12-yard run to the goal line. To finish the drive, Buchner rushed out wide to the left leaving three minutes in the half and Irish up 7-6. This was Buchner’s fourth rushing touchdown, his first of the season.

The Thundering Herd was just that though and were able to use the three minutes. Marshall took the ball from their own 22 and, after a successful first down attempt, and a facemask from senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey, the Herd crossed into their own half. Laborn and Corey Gammage brought two more first downs, before Colombi found Harrison at the four. Laborn would run twice more for no gain as he found DJ Brown and J.D. Bertrand waiting for him. Colombi looked to pass, but Bracy was there on the coverage. With 18 seconds left, the Herd settled for a field goal to go up 9-7.

To open the half, Marshall punted, leaving the Irish at their own twelve. Two carries from sophomore running back Audric Estime brought the Irish to a first down at the 28. Buchner rushed and then hit Styles for eight yards and a first down. Estime was then stuffed twice, and the Irish turned the ball over on downs for a second time. 

Marshall faked a flea flicker and instead Talik Keaton took off past several defenders for a 30-yard gain. From the Irish 11, quarterback Cam Fancher gained seven yards before senior linebacker JD Bertrand took him down. Graduate student defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola pushed the Herd back to the seven and graduate student safety DJ Brown made the stop on a quarterback, forcing another field goal attempt. Verhoff made it though, and Marshall extended their lead 12-7. While some red zone stops were there, the Herd was able to march downfield repeatedly over the Irish.

The Herd outran the Irish 219 to 130 yards and Marshall’s Henry Colombi saw 76% completion to sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner’s 56%.

“I really don’t think we were hurt that much in the vertical pass game,” Brown said of where Colombi found success when he did throw. “It was just those intermediate throws and RPOs and things like that. You know, we can always correct this.”

The Irish also saw three interceptions to the Herd’s none. Freeman said the biggest issue though was the lack of tackling.

“Too many times where run or pass, we didn’t get the ball carrier. You can’t let an offense run 95 yards at any moment, but especially not the fourth quarter, when the game’s on the line, you’re up and you’re trying to, you know, put the game away,” he said.

After a touchback from the Marshall kickoff, Mayer was fouled and the Irish moved to their own 36, seemingly shifting the momentum once again. From there, Buchner found Mayer again, connecting this time for a 30-yard gain to the Marshall 35. Tyree caught a pass and ran for nine yards and then Buchner completed the 10 with a sneak around the side plus five more. From the 19, Buchner hit junior tight end Kevin Bauman who took off to the one. 

To start the fourth quarter, and bring his rushing touchdowns to five, Buchner snuck into the end zone for six points. He then went around the side for two more. The Irish took the lead 15-12. 

The Irish defense allowed one first down from Marshall before turning on the jets. On third and seven, junior safety Ramon Henderson and graduate student defensive end Justin Ademilola took Colombi down for a loss of eight. At fourth and 15, the Herd punted and safety senior Brandon Joseph returned it to the Notre Dame 40. 

After seven plays, the Irish punted. Marshall opened the drive at the Irish 6. Mainly on the ground, the Herd marched down the field yet again. Khalan Laborn broke several Irish tackles to bring the Herd to the Notre Dame 6 on a 42-yard run. Colombi found Devin Miller through the air to put the Herd up again. After the kick, the score sat at 19-15.

The Herd wasn’t done scoring though. Steven Gilmore picked off Buchner shortly afterward to make the score 26-15. 

From the Marshall 25, the Irish gained a 15-yard penalty to move to the 40 before finding Mayer over the middle. Buchner rushed for another first down, but left the field hurt on the play. With junior Drew Pyne in at quarterback, the Irish turn the ball over again. Pyne looked to pass, but ultimately threw the game’s third interception. Owen Porter snagged the ball from the Irish.  

The defense came up with the stop again though as graduate student linebacker Bo Bauer blocked the punt and the Irish took the ball on the 32. Through a Marshall penalty, a sack, a completed pass and his own 13-yard run, Pyne managed to bring the Irish to the five. There, he found Mayer to break into the endzone for the Irish one last time. He failed the two-point conversion though, and the Irish fell 26-21.

After the game, Mayer officially broke the threshold of 120 career receptions, but he said he didn’t care about that. What he cared about was winning.

“I’m pretty frustrated because we lost but we’ll watch the film tomorrow. And Tuesday, we start preparing for Cal and, you know, hopefully, we get a win there and several [others],” Mayer said. “I mean you really can’t just sulk in these losses. I mean, we’re 0-2, yes, and it’s horrible, it’s horrible, but we’re just going to prepare for the next team. Try to execute the best we can execute and just keep playing.”


Key moments in Notre Dame’s home opener loss to Marshall

Marshall scores first. 

At the end of a scoreless first quarter, Marshall was mid-drive. From their own 21, Henry Colombi led the Herd 79 yards over 10 plays in four minutes. Caleb McMillan snagged two first downs, pushing into Irish territory before the quarter ended. The Irish failed to make several tackles — a trend that persisted throughout the game — giving up what looked like a touchdown, only for it to be called back due to illegal motion on the Herd’s side. Jayden Harrison reels in another first down from Colombi, this time to put Marshall in the red zone to start the second. From the Irish 4, Laborn takes it up the middle to break the scoreless tie. Up 6, Marshall kicker Rece Verhoff missed the PAT wide right, but this initial lead ends up more than enough to bring the Herd a win. 

Fourth down attempts don’t work for either team. 

The ball was turned over on downs three times in this game. 

First, graduate student wide receiver Braden Lenzy was sent down the sideline several times for the Irish, some of the routes using his speed to eventually curl past his defender. He was then targeted inside the Marshall 20 yard line on an Irish fourth down attempt. While he snagged the ball, he came down just out of bounds, and the Irish turned it over. 

On the very next drive Marshall turned the ball over on downs as well, but the Irish couldn’t do anything with it. 

It was on Notre Dame’s second fourth down attempt that Marshall was able to convert. Sophomore running back Audric Estime was stuffed twice at the Notre Dame 48, and then Marshall took it down to the third yard line. Although the defense stopped a touchdown, Rece Verhoff buried a 20 yard attempt. 

Buchner practically doubles his rushing touchdowns

Buchner was a workhorse across the board this game. He threw for 201 yards and led the team with 44 rushing yards. Two of those yards came from both of his rushing touchdowns — the only two Irish rushing touchdowns on the day. With 3 minutes left in the second quarter, Buchner threw to tight end Michael Mayer, who was taken down at the one. He then snuck in around the left side for six points. On the second, he took the ball in for a QB sneak. Before this game he had three career rushing touchdowns. After the second, he was at five. Then, Freeman elected to go for two, and the Irish turned to Buchner again as he tucked, this time to the right, and claimed the two extra points. 

Irish offense falls apart in the fourth. Marshall scores back to back touchdowns.

The momentum from Buchner’s second touchdown didn’t hold out. After pinning them at the six, the Irish defense couldn’t hold Marshall back from another touchdown. On their drive to answer, the Irish found themselves with a three-and-out. They didn’t get the chance to punt though. Instead, Steven Gilmore intercepted Buchner’s pass. Gilmore took it back for a 37-yard pick six. This would be the last time Marshall scored. They led the Irish 26-15. 

Drew Pyne enters, hurts and helps the already dire situation.

The drive after the pick six, Buchner brought the Irish to the Marshall 26 from their own 25, before going down with a shoulder injury. Junior Drew Pyne then took the field in his place, and after an incomplete attempt to sophomore wide receiver Jayden Thomas, his pass was intercepted by Owen Porter. Porter then went down at the Marshall 19. The defense shut Marshall down quickly, and graduate student linebacker Bo Bauer was able to get behind the line to block the punt, leaving Pyne and Co. 32 yards from the end zone. Over seven plays and 32 yards, Pyne ran for 13. Marshall committed a penalty and then Pyne found Mayer for a 5-yard touchdown. Still, it wasn’t enough, and after Pyne couldn’t convert on the two points, the Irish remained down 26-21. 

The Irish attempted an onside kick but it was recovered by Marshall who kneeled to end the game, the second Irish loss of the season, 26-21. 


McGinley: This weekend, the Irish define themselves

Last weekend, the Irish fell 21-10 to the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Irish also started a brand new quarterback, under a brand new coach, with a brand new O-line coach. 

Last weekend, the Irish beat the spread, scored first and led for most of the game all while the defense took on the three-headed hydra that is the Buckeye offense under C.J. Stroud. 

Last weekend was a different game.

Now, the Irish home opener is upon us, and Notre Dame has a different set of goals to accomplish as they take on Marshall.

This weekend, the Irish define themselves.

Outside of pulling off a win, Notre Dame’s goals Sept. 3 had two major facets, at least from where I sat. First, keep the Buckeyes at bay. The Irish were headed into a massive stadium. They knew it would be loud, and it was. They knew it would be hostile, and it was. They knew they’d be the underdogs in a space like that, and they were.

Still, the Irish defense came bounding out of the tunnel for a sack, forced Stroud out of the pocket repeatedly and only allowed one touchdown in the first half. (The lowest first-half score the Buckeyes have seen under head coach Ryan Day.) They could have kept that pace too had the offense not been in a conservative mindset in the second half. The defense was on the field for quite some time and still only let up three touchdowns overall.

This weekend, however, the defensive goal unequivocally has to be to join in on the scoring. With a defensive-minded head coach and Al Golden in the coordinator chair, the Irish were ready. You wouldn’t have known in Ohio that the Irish lost their star safety and their starting nose guard from the year before if you didn’t know you were supposed to miss them. And that was against the number three team in the country. 

Now, the Irish will take on the Thundering Herd, and you can expect the defense to be everywhere. Even the cornerback room — arguably the most questionable unit on the defensive side of the ball — has stepped up to the challenge. Last weekend was a test of how good they are. Now, it’s time for a joy ride. Marshall is a strong enough opponent that it’s an important test run for just how dominant the defense can be, not just how long it can hold its own.

The second goal last weekend was for the Irish to look like they belonged on that field. Throughout the 12 years of the Kelly era, fans of college football have told a broader narrative that once the Irish made it to the big stage, they couldn’t hold their own. While there’s a lot more nuance to that discussion, the fact of the matter is the scores were never close. Whether the talent just wasn’t there for the Irish, they weren’t coached the same way or it was just a sheer mindset issue, the outcomes were often blowouts.

Last weekend, however, they led until the third, were only down by four until the fourth quarter and only lost by 11 points. The Irish were by no means out of that game at any point. A couple conservative calls from Tommy Rees came in the form of protection for Tyler Buchner behind Hiestead’s offensive line, all on the field for the first time. While they could have been game changers had they gone for it — as Freeman ultimately said he wanted to — Rees made the right decision. There’s a just as likely possibility that a brand new quarterback makes a mistake downfield under pressure towards the end of a long, loud, hostile game as there is that he makes the game-winning touchdown throw. The difference? This way, Rees took the game — and mentally, the season — off Buchner’s shoulders. He gave Buchner the opportunities to do what he came to do without putting a tinted filter on his entire season. 

Does this mean Rees doesn’t trust Buchner? Absolutely not. Rees read the room — or the stadium for that matter. He allowed the entire team a chance to prove themselves, not just Buchner. Jon Sot is a great example of this. He did his part as well as anyone, pinning the Buckeyes deep in their own half on several punts. Had Buchner taken a desperate shot downfield and it went poorly, that’s an entirely different mindset coming off the field, one no one needs to start their collegiate career with. The shots he did take, although they didn’t all land, looked promising. This is the weekend to put those to the test. Marshall can be a threat if the Irish let them. But if Buchner takes control under guidance from Rees, this game will be a great space to shore up comfort levels on the field before the season grows more difficult week to week.

While that 1 in the loss column is going to hurt all season, 11 points is no detrimental loss, especially when they came so late in the game. And, some of the concessions the Irish made then will not be on the table this weekend. Freeman already made it well known. He wants to be aggressive this weekend, so you won’t see that conservative play calling — nor should you. It’s time to define Notre Dame Football for the season. The Irish will enter Notre Dame Stadium ready to rack up the points on both sides of the ball and they’re fully capable of it.

Mannion McGinley

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‘I just did it for my team’: How the 1995 title shaped Kate Markgraf’s mentality

Women’s soccer took off across the country in the 1990s. Kate Markgraf (then Sobrero), general manager of the U.S. National Women’s National Team (USWNT), ensured she was a part of that game-changing decade as a player on the collegiate, professional and international levels.

Throughout her career at Notre Dame, the Irish took home every conference title — ultimately winning nine straight —, made it to every College Cup, became runners-up twice and won the title in 1995, defeating Portland 1-0 in triple overtime.

“I think the 1995 team was a great example of a team that came together, but it wasn’t an easy road, which is probably the reason why we won,” Markgraf said. 

Markgraf went on to play for four professional women’s soccer teams, played with the U.S.  Women’s National team through the 1999 and 2003 World Cups and is now the general manager with the USWNT. She is also currently the president of the Monogram club, a community comprised of former Notre Dame student-athletes and student support staff members, as well as an on-campus staff and a board of directors.

Self-Selecting’ into South Bend

Markgraf grew up in Bloomfield, Michigan where she attended Detroit Country Day School. While there, she helped the Yellowjackets to the 1991 state title, scoring 16 goals and assisting 26 through her tenure. She was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA, now referred to as the United Soccer Coaches) All-American team one year in high school and was named to the All-State team in three different years. 

While she was recruited for Division III volleyball as well, Markgraf wanted to play soccer and selected Notre Dame for her collegiate career. 

“The athletes that chose to go [to Notre Dame], are the ones that are trying to build something,” Markgraf said. “And they self select themselves into a really challenging environment. [Notre Dame] teaches you how to want more and it teaches you how to do it. It teaches you how to face challenges both on and off the field because you’re around peers and faculty that want the same and show you how to do it.”

Markgraf described what a Notre Dame women’s soccer team looked like, in any given year out of her four, why they chose to play for the Irish and who she knew they were playing for when she stepped onto the pitch.

“We were a composite of players that were deemed not good enough to go to North Carolina or players that wanted to build something besides North Carolina and were willing to go into the cold weather. That’s a big culture shock for [the California kids], to go to South Bend,” Markgraf said. “So you had players that wanted to build something, and that’s pretty cool.

Markgraf discussed the culture on campus as well: “[Notre Dame] surrounded them with a campus of really hard-working people. I would say the normal student population goes to Notre Dame because of faith, history, the campus, what it stands for. And when you’re around people that’ve self-selected themselves into this University that wanted that, you’re around people that I still say are the best humans I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve never been in a room with so many amazing people that align with my values that were non-athletes in the same spot.”

Playing for the Irish

Markgraf started all 96 games of her career in South Bend. She was a three-time All-American and earned first-team honors twice. She was also a three-time All-Big East selection and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. And, in her sophomore year, Markgraf was named defensive MVP of the final four.

In 1994, Markgraf’s freshman year, the Irish fell, 5-0 in the NCAA Finals to the North Carolina Tar Heels. This loss came after a successful season for the Irish that included a conference championship, an undefeated conference season and a 23-1-1 season record. The year before, the Irish had only made the first round of the tournament so they were on the up and came up just a hair short of the title.

“We’d already been seasoned by that disappointment,” Markgraf said. “You had me as a freshman, a couple other freshmen, and really talented sophomores and juniors at the time experience what it’s like and what is needed at that level. So you already had that greenness rub off.”

In 1995, the Irish took the next logical step, but Markgraf said it was no easy feat. After playing a strong early schedule, the Irish made it back to the NCAA tournament but the path wasn’t without hiccups even though they were no longer green. 

“We struggled in some games,” Markgraf said. “We actually played some good opponents early on, so we got to test ourselves individually and collectively, and there were significant ups and downs as a team. But I would say that the core leadership and different, influential players, were able to support everyone when someone else needed a bit more support. And collectively, we got through it.”

By the time the 1995 tournament came around, Markgraf said they felt they had been through the worst of it. Suffering 1994 as a team, coming out the other side and most of the top players making it through personal struggles, Markgraf felt they were ready. 

“It all came together and we were firing on all cylinders before the tournament started. We hit the NCAA tournament finally with a little bit of momentum.”

The ‘95 NCAA tournament. 

The 1995 Women’s College Cup consisted of 24 teams, rounding out to a set of semifinals between SMU and Portland and Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Irish defeated two familiar foes in their first two rounds. Wisconsin stepped to the No. 4 seed Irish first. In the regular season, the Irish had already defeated them 1-0 but this time, the offense exploded behind four first-half goals and a Shannon Boxx hat trick. The Irish won 5-0. 

Then came the Huskies. Notre Dame took on UConn in the regular season and fell 5-4 at Alumni stadium. But, a rejuvenated Markgraf and the Irish defense saw the Huskies in the Big East final and the third round of the College Cup and won both 2-0. Notre Dame was 21-2-2 on the season with a conference title in hand. Now, they were in the final four of the Women’s College Cup, taking on North Carolina.

“We faced Carolina after we’d gotten blown out by them in ’94, we had played them earlier in the [‘95] season and tied,” Markgraf recalled. “Everything just kind of came together … we had excellent individual performances and team performance.”

Instead of the 5-0 loss, they were handed almost exactly the year before, the Irish took down the Tar Heels, winning 1-0 in the semifinals. This meant 1995 would be the first championship since 1985 not won by North Carolina, whose record streak of nine consecutive national titles (1986–1994) was broken by the Irish. This was also the first final match to not feature the Tar Heels.

“We won that game and that was actually the biggest hurdle. We just needed to be ready for the finals…We weren’t supposed to be in the finals, Carolina was. So it was just fascinating to watch all that happen.” 

“It was so great to hear quiet Carolina fans,” Markgraf said. “At the same time I had friends on the Carolina team and I saw them lose in front of their fans. And it was awesome. Anytime I hear boos it actually is easier to play in front of a hostile crowd than a supportive crowd sometimes. Depending on the challenges if you’re the underdog or if you’re supposed to win, it matters during certain moments of the games and it was awesome. It tested our resilience.”

However, the Irish still had more than 90 minutes of play to go before they could claim the crown. 

The Irish were about to take on Portland in the final. The Pilots went 17-0-2 on the season and won 1-0 in their first two rounds before defeating SMU 4-2. The final remained scoreless.

“It was a hot day and it was going into overtime, we realized, we can do this because we just did what we did on Friday,” Markgraf said. “There’s a confidence that happens, that becomes institutionalized when you’ve had success. You know, it may not be going well but you know you’re going to come out and win and I think that’s what ’95 taught us individually and collectively at the right moments that prepared us in that moment of doubt that you have in a game. Collectively we knew ‘We’re gonna win this. It may not look pretty, but we’re gonna win it.’”

It wasn’t until the third overtime that the Irish were able to break through. Michelle McCarthy was fouled outside of the box, Daws quick-kicked the direct kick past the Portland goalkeeper to end the game. The season would later be described by two-time national coach of the year Chris Petrucelli as a season that “ended the way we all had dreamed about” and Markgraf attributed that to their clarity in the tournament.  

Shifting priorities

In addition to her defensive MVP title, Markgraf would be named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team but the headspace she was in at that point in her career had forgotten accolades, she said. Instead, she was playing just to play. 

“[Winning defensive MVP] didn’t shape anything, to be honest,” Markgraf said. “There were times that yeah, it used to matter to me, probably the year before. But I had learned because I’d been disappointed the year before. I was really good my freshman year but I didn’t get any of the accolades. So ego-wise, I was crushed by that. That’s what actually led me to do a lot of self-reflection. I didn’t make the national team that I got to try out for in December of ‘94, after a strong season. I had a horrible tryout. So that’s what had me spinning a little bit. And then through the fall of ‘95, I just kind of had to deal with it and started to get my priorities on the right track where it was like, I need to play because I love this not because I’m good at it. And that’s what it was [in ‘95]. So yes, it was awesome.” 

Where Markgraf said the awards made some impact was in the recognition she received from others. She was offered to return to tryouts for the national team but twice declined due to how she felt her first performance with the national team went.

“I just had failed,” Markgraf said. “I didn’t want to face that again. I was just kind of like, ‘No I’m just playing for me.’ I’m not doing this anymore for any of the accolades. “I did it for my team. My senior year, I was asked to switch sides and play [left back]. And I spent all year training for it. Had I been caught up in all the awards, I would have fought my coach and said ‘No, I’m staying on this side because it’s where I’m known to be good.’ Instead, I’m like, ‘Okay, I want to win, all right, I’ll go do that.’”

Markgraf also noted that the position change helped vault her onto the national team’s roster. “I could play on the right and left side when that versatility wasn’t [previously] needed to make the national team. But that’s a reason why I did make it because I could play on the left side when very few players had a left foot.”

Learning through leadership

Throughout the rest of her collegiate career, Markgraf continued to start. She helped lead Notre Dame back to the final in ‘96, but the Irish fell to North Carolina in a double-overtime heartbreaker. In her senior year, Markgraf was named captain. She led the Irish to a fourth conference championship in her four years and to the NCAA Semifinals again after hosting a regional. Ultimately though, Notre Dame fell in the semifinals 2-1 to Connecticut. Markgraf learned more about herself off the field than on in those last two years.

“I think being given a position of leadership as a female, over a female team and with co-leadership — I might wear the armband but there’s all of us — I would say it just taught me those leadership skills, and it gave me the opportunity to see things from a different perspective,” Markgraf said. “I always am a very collaborative leader … to actually be given the title leader, that’s very scary for me, and always was and I always say no. I’ve always been asked to be captains or lead things, and I don’t actually like that title. I usually have to be convinced to do something and that’s what Notre Dame taught me: Embrace it and you’re going to have support.”

After Notre Dame

Markgraf went on to play both international and club soccer. She eventually said yes to the USWNT in 1998. Her versatility and her skill set made her an instrumental part of the 1999 squad despite being the least internationally experienced player to start in the team’s World Cup play that year. The USWNT would go on to win the Cup in ‘99 with Markgraf on the roster. She started on three Olympic rosters, winning silver in 2000 and gold in both 2004 and 2008. In July 2010, Markgraf made her 200th international cap, making her the 10th woman in FIFA history to mark 200 caps. She finished her international career with 201 which currently ranks her at the 25th most international caps between both men and women as no men have more than 200 international FIFA caps. 

In her club career, Markgraf joined the Boston Breakers from 2001-2003, making 51 appearances. She then moved to KIF Örebro DFF, a Swedish club where she made eight appearances and scored a goal. Markgraf scored another goal at the Michigan Hawks where she made 27 appearances from 2006-2009 before spending her last season with the Chicago Red Stars in 2010. That year, she was captain of the Red Stars and named to the All-Star team. 

Since 2009, Markgraf has been a member of the Monogram Club Board of Trustees. She joined the Monogram Club’s presidential rotation as vice president in October 2017 and began a two-year term as Monogram Club President in April 2022. Markgraf said she loves being a part of the club’s leadership and shaping how it grows and changes.

“The monogram club is an opportunity to figure out how to support the athletic department’s initiatives that are constantly evolving,” Markgraf said. “Because the board is comprised of athletes and represents 9,000 people in our membership, it’s constantly a wonderful challenge in a good way to look at how can we provide connection … to the alumni as well as anything the athletic department needs and wants to support our student-athletes, to let them know they’re not alone. If they ever need help or support, we’re there. But more importantly, when they graduate, we can provide a sense of community, a sense of fellowship, as well as ways to give back to the University as well as to the program that they played in, or just to be part of the committed fabric that even though you’re no longer at Notre Dame, it is for forever. You’re not just there for four years.”

In all of these roles, Markgraf took on larger leadership roles than she may have thought she would originally. That continued into her most recent endeavor as the USWNT’s first General Manager. Her advice? If something scares you, go after it.

“If anything interests you, do it. Go,” Markgraf said. “Go regardless if you’re going to be good at it. I think when you’re at Notre Dame, you’re used to succeeding right? And so trust that you’ll have the skills to figure stuff out. So if you don’t have them currently, know that you can learn them because you obviously showed that you have a reservoir of talent to get into Notre Dame and thrive at Notre Dame.”

Mannion McGinley

Contact Mannion at


Beginner’s guide to eating well in South Bend

On a day-to-day basis, the Notre Dame bubble can sometimes leave students with limited dining options. South Bend and Mishawaka, however, have a plethora of wonderful restaurants you NEED to hit before you leave. I know everyone has their go-to spots, so these may not be everyone’s favorites, but first-years, I hope this list helps you to find favorites of your own.

For GREAT brunch: 

Hit Peggs. There’s no reservations, but you can get through the short wait with a cup of coffee or a glass of water in their adorable mugs. Or, if you want to stroll around downtown South Bend — which I highly suggest you do even if you aren’t in line for Peggs — they’ll call you when there’s a table opening. The food is great overall; I’ve had about four different meals there. My favorite? The Chicken and Waffles with a freshly pressed juice and their cinnamon rolls that are to die for.

For a lunch-y/brunch-y combo moment: 

Hit the Metro Diner in Mishawaka. Their food is excellent; I have never gotten the same thing twice. They have all of your midwestern classics from a great chicken salad sandwich to a warm chicken pot pie. Also, readers over 21, their bottomless mimosas are the perfect balance between OJ and sparkling wine. 

For local coffee, fun teas and a snack: 

Yes, Starbucks is always a functional option for getting some work done and housing a few salted caramel cold brews or iced peach green tea lemonades, but every city has a Starbucks, a Dunkin’ or both. You can do that anywhere. 

Instead, hit Chicory Cafe. This adorable New Orleans-style cafe has a great little menu for any time of day.  They have locally roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee that smells amazing the second you walk in. My go-to order? Their lavender London Fog latte with an order of the beignets. Hands down the best tea-latte in town and sometimes, I’ll get two beignet orders in one visit. 

As a side note, the casual atmosphere also makes it a great first date coffee spot. And, if you’re feeling nostalgic, there’s no one telling you you can’t get dino nuggets off the kids menu (speaking from experience on both those fronts).

The space also does live music, has a piano at all times and a comfy couch in the corner where a larger group can sit and talk. 

For a fun, casual dinner: 

The Lauber. Whether you’re getting dinner with friends, your parents are in town or you have a club leadership dinner to organize, the Lauber is a great option. The two patios are so much fun, you’ll want to sit out on them even as it gets cold. The setting sun as you eat is so pretty outside and peeks so well through the garage doors of the former sheet metal company into the exciting bar and restaurant atmosphere. 

Get the Tin Can Nachos as a fun appetizer to share within the group and watch as your server lifts the can away to see the nachos spill all over each other. There are great vegetarian and vegan options here as well and a bunch of origial pizzas. In terms of what I get, I’m always torn between the Prime Melt and the Power Salad. Their specialty drinks and desserts change with the seasons but they are always good, too. 

For a place almost as new as you: 

If you’re looking for somewhere with a great vibe, great music and incredible food, but that’s still making a name for itself (which, by extension, you get to be a part of), hit Fatbird. Go with a couple friends and share a few of their incredible entrees, all made with southern influences. The Jambalaya, the fried chicken and the chicken salad sandwich on a croissant are all worth your time and you cannot miss with a single one of the sides. The drinks are made classically and elegantly, but they also have a drink list full of twists on old classics as well. The dessert is always yummy too, even though I barely have room for it. 

For a milestone or a birthday:

Hit Corndance. The exciting twist on a classic steakhouse is always fun. The food is incredible and the space is entertaining. It is a little pricier than most of these other locations but it is a great way to celebrate an important event in your life. The sides do not miss here either, especially when they accompany the Sword of John Adams. What is that you ask? It is a literal sword (dagger-like structure) stuck into a plate skewering different cuts and kinds of meat. Owned by the same people who own Evil Czech and Jesus (two other great restaurants in South Bend), Corndance features their locally-famous dessert, Cake in a Can. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. 

Best of luck, first-years, on your first forays outside the Notre Dame bubble and upperclassmen, if you haven’t broken out yet, try one of these places as soon as you can! You won’t be sorry you did. 

You can contact Manni at


Belles look to burst onto conference scene

This weekend, all three Saint Mary’s fall sports enter their first regular-season action of the year.

Saint Mary’s Soccer

The Belles are back in action Thursday for their season opener. After going 8-9, 1-7, in the conference last year, Saint Mary’s soccer has entirely revamped. Head coach Farkhod Kurbonov, new to the Belles coaching position this season, returns a cohesive squad to the pitch accompanied by nine brand new freshmen, all of whom, he says, blend really well with the existing group.

“If you come to our practice, right now and watch us practice, I don’t think you would know who’s freshman [and] who’s not, which is great. Obviously, there’s a size difference between someone who played college for four years or three years and someone who just came out of high school so they’re getting used to the physicality part of it, and they’re getting used to the time management obviously, this being their first week of college in their life. But soccer-wise, they adjusted very, very well and that goes back to the seniors that we have that make them feel very welcome and our returning class.” 

Even new himself, Kurbonov said this team has created such a welcoming environment where they have been able to become a cohesive unit, using each grade. 

“I’m very excited by these girls and we will definitely be starting several freshmen right off the bat and from our scrimmage to our practices, they look ready, they look there, they can make a difference. So that’s one thing I’m excited about.”

Kurbonov says they have a strong commitment to each other off the field as well. Between watching movies, getting dinner or helping each other prepare for majors, the seniors brought the freshmen up to speed quickly. 

This strength off the field shores up just in time for the season opener against Concordia Chicago. The Belles opened last year against the Cougars as well, winning the match 3-0. They went on a four-game win streak after that and only lost one of their first eight. Kurbonov said the squad is looking to open the season the same way and are pushing each other to make it happen. 

“On the field, that camaraderie is there and the girls are pushing each other and actually vice versa. The freshmen have been pushing everyone and it just I don’t remember seeing anything quite like that before that the girls just coming out of high school click right away,” he said. “So again, I’m excited.” 

While the excitement and the energy are there, that doesn’t make conference play any easier. Kubonov said he’s confident in the women on the team — despite the conference being tough — and he’s making it their priority from day one. 

“Our conference, the quality of the conference, it’s very, very balanced and it’s not super top heavy which makes it tough and at the same time makes it exciting and interesting too, to compete for the playoffs,” he said. “Our objective is to compete for playoffs because it’s been a hot minute since Saint Mary’s [was] in the playoffs. We’ll try to change that. And I think that’s why it’s very important that the freshmen are going to be the ones who are going to come in here and make a difference alongside us.”

Kurbonov said the starting 11 will include freshmen although the exact lineup hasn’t been decided yet, to give the team the very best chance. 

“I’m very positive about the girls who will start on Thursday,” he said. “I’m confident in every one of them and whoever steps off the bench or starts, everyone’s excited.”

Saint Mary’s Cross Country 

The Belles’ Cross Country team opens up its season Thursday, Sept. 1 at the Manchester Hokum Karem in North Manchester, Indiana. After placing 22nd in the NCAA regional, the Belles are looking to come back stronger than ever this season. 

The event is a two-person relay race, in which team members run alternating 3Ks. Last year, duos Ava Gillis and Angela Bannan clutched 7th place while Amanda Tracy and Elizabeth Bolinger grabbed tenth. This season, both senior Bannan and junior Tracy will run without their partner. The Belles cross country also lost a number of runners such as Anne Scheck, Brigid Conmy, Riley Swope, Emily Blank and Charley Lustig. In addition, their now assistant coach Claudia Stiglitz used to run for the Belles. 

Although the Belles lost a significant number of their runners, they retained many of their scoring runners from the past NCAA Regionals. This includes Haley Greene, now a junior, who claimed a personal record at the meet with a time of 23:41.9, placing 76th overall. Tracy also recorded a personal record of 24.33.5, which awarded her 112th overall. Tracy, Greene, Senior Alexa Zeese, Sophomore Elizabeth Bernovich and senior Anna DeMars also scored in the NCAA regional last year. The Belles welcome three freshmen added to their roster as well. 

With a stacked season, the Belles hope to improve their results. After kicking it off in North Manchester, Indiana, the Belles travel to the Calvin Knight Invitational, before returning home for the Notre Dame National Catholic Invitational. While they did not move past the regionals last season, they hope to build on their repertoire as well as strengthen their team. 

Saint Mary’s Volleyball

After a disappointing 2021-22 season, the Belles’ volleyball team is back in action on Friday, Sept. 2. The Belles will open their season up on the road in Sandusky, Ohio, where they will play Bluffton in the Heidelberg Invite. Saint Mary’s will not stop there, as later that evening, they will be traveling to the Cedar Point Invite where they will play Capital, Waynesburg and Defiance all in one weekend. 

Last season, the Belles lost in the MIAA tournament to Albion on the road. Although Albion won the first set 25-11, Saint Mary’s was able to come back in the second set, before losing the third and fourth, consecutively. While their season did not end as hoped, the Saint Mary’s volleyball team did come out of the season with lots of impressive stats. Junior outside hitter Colleen McCarthy led the team with 236 kills, and senior middle hitter Molly Pooler ended the season with 159 kills. McCarthy also led the team in digs, with a total of 223, and service aces, with 16. Sophomore middle hitter Shay Theile followed closely with 14 aces.

The Belles also lost their setter Claire Hennessy, who finished the season with a total of 641 assists. This season, the Belles will rely on their returning players, as well as their six freshmen, to strengthen their team and hopefully secure a better final ranking postseason. 

While the Belles will open up against similarly ranked teams, they will also face tough competition moving further into the season. In the MIAA alone, Hope college finished their last season undefeated, while Calvin only lost one game. Although the Belles finished seventh in their conference, they did beat teams ranked above them, such as Olivet. 

With a difficult schedule ahead, the Belles must dig deep to improve upon last season’s 7-15 record.

Mannion McGinley

Contact Mannion at


Notre Dame Women’s Soccer kicks off with a win

With a 4-0 win to make themselves 4-0 on the season, Notre Dame women’s soccer took down Illinois at Alumni Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Head coach Nate Norman summed up the win in three words.

“It was good,” Norman said. “I mean overall it was good. You know they’re a good team and I thought we handled the game very, very well.”

The Irish talent spans across the ages as all four undergraduate classes snagged a goal. Sophomore defender Katie Coyle opened the scoring in minute 33 with a one-touch goal off the assist from graduate student forward Olivia Wingate, who blew past the Illini through the left side of the box.

Coyle, a defender, said she made the run to split the team — “Even if it’s just pulling a defender out or hitting a ball across” — more than anything else. She said she was not expecting to score.

“I’m excited,” Coyle said. “I didn’t know it was going in, but I’m happy it did.”

Then, in the 45th with 12 seconds left in the first half, the Irish found the back of the net again, this time off the foot of junior forward Ellie Ospeck who stepped, for the first time this season, into the wing position. She sent the ball in with ease after junior forward Paige Peltier forced a diving save from the Illinois keeper. Ospeck’s tuck-in put the Irish up two at the half. 

Seasoned vet Maddie Mercado made sure Irish fans didn’t have to wait long for a third goal. The senior midfielder found the loose ball after a header attempt from senior forward Kiki Van Zanten was blocked, burying it in the top corner. To round out the undergraduate representation, freshman defender Leah Klenke stepped up. Klenke took on a defender one-on-one and beat her, sending the ball sailing over the keeper and curling it into the top right corner. 

In terms of what could have gone better, Norman had a short list, but nothing could shake his ultimate takeaway around the win. 

“I wish we could be a little more efficient sometimes with our finishing,” he said. “And I just wish we could keep the tempo consistently high. But I’m getting nitpicky with things — which is good, you know, you want to [nitpick] as a coach because overall they’re doing a great job and I’m just really proud of them.” 

Behind 11 goals, the Irish have claimed shutouts in each of their victories. They’ve seen four shots on goal this season and the Fighting Illini only got off eight shots on the day. This, however, has left Norman with minimal evidence to answer a lingering question: Who will be the starting keeper? Between juniors Ashley Naylor and Kaylin Slattery and graduate student Mackenzie Wood, all of whom have seen the pitch for the Irish this season, Norman and the rest of the coaching staff have a decision to make. 

“It’s a good problem to have, but eventually you want to go with a goalkeeper,” Norman said. “We’ll sit down and talk about it this week, but I think the reality is that they haven’t seen a lot of action so we haven’t probably had a lot of evidence to know one way or another.”

Regardless of who’s in the net, the Irish return to the pitch in Alumni Stadium for a midweek matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers. The match kicks off at 7 p.m. EST and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network. 

Mannion McGinley

Contact Mannion at