Nine fighters crowned Baraka Bouts champions

Lindsey “Smol Ranger” Michie def. Katherine “Bend It Like” Beckman of Howard Hall

The opening bout of the finals was full of enthusiasm from the crowd, and both boxers came out on the offensive. Michie landed a couple of punches early, but Beckman fought back, using her long reach to land some punches of her own. Michie ended the first round on a high note, though, by landing a series of jabs on Beckman. In the second round, it was Beckman who came out of the gates on the offensive, but Michie responded by landing a huge blow to the head. After the second round, it was still up in the air who would win the fight. In the third, both boxers continued to land blows on each other, but Michie was able to land some punishing blows on Beckman to win it all by unanimous decision. 

Ellie “The Hammer” Hammerschmitt of Pasquerilla East Hall def. Emily “Enemy Jane” Nowak of McGlinn Hall

Hammerschmitt dominated this fight early, landing a huge blow to Nowak in the opening seconds. But Nowak was able to get her footing in the fight and slip out of some of Hammerschmitt’s jabs to land some blows of her own. Nowak came out of the gates on the offensive in the second round, but Hammerschmitt countered with a series of blows on Nowak. Although Nowak responded by landing some punches of her own, Hammerschmitt’s longer reach proved difficult for Nowak to handle, and Hammerschmitt gained control of the fight in the second round. In the final round, Nowak landed some body blows on Hammerschmitt, but Hammerschmitt once again used her strength to pin Nowak against the rails and land more. Ultimately, Hammerschmitt would win the fight by unanimous decision.

Sarah “Midshipmenace” Nowak of Welsh Family Hall def. Lauren “Blondie” Buetow of Flaherty Hall

This fight was highly contested early on, with both boxers landing jabs on each other in the opening seconds. Nowak would gain some momentum as the round progressed by landing some big punches on Buetow. It was Buetow who came out of the gates on the offensive in the second round, but Nowak countered by landing some strong blows on Buetow and knocking her to the ground. Beutow would fight back, however, after getting knocked down and landed some jabs of her own on Nowak. Nowak would then end the second round on a high note by landing some more strong blows on Buetow. In the final round, both boxers looked noticeably tired, and both traded blows with each other over the final seconds of the fight. In the end, Nowak had done enough in the first two rounds to win the fight by split decision. 

Cece “Gigna Ninja” Giarman of Lewis Hall def. Chiara “French Thunder” Thrum of Lewis Hall

The fight between the two Lewis women got off to a quick start with both boxers landing punch after punch on each other. The fighting went back and forth early in the first round, and both boxers were successful in responding to the other’s offensive. Giarman ended the round on a high note, however, by landing some punishing blows on Thrum. In the second round, both boxers came out of the gates on the offensive, but this time it was Giarman that found success by landing a flurry of punches on Thrum. Giarman continued to dominate the second round by landing some more body blows and jabs on her opponent. In the final round, Thrum fought back and landed some jabs on Giarman, forcing Giarman into an eight count. Both boxers started to fatigue towards the end, but Giarman found a second wind to land some punishing blows at the end of the fight. Giarman did enough to ultimately win the fight by unanimous decision.

Lily “The Chelsea Dagger” Whitman of Lyons Hall def. Caroline “Wasian Persuasion” Landry of Lewis Hall

The final round fight between Whitman and Landry began with both fighters landing a flurry of punches. The ref broke up the fight after Whitman landed a headshot; both fighters continued with vengeance. They went back and forth fairly evenly until Whitman landed several shots to end the round. Whitman dominated in the second, backing Landry down with multiple jabs to the head. Landry managed to land a strong punch, but Whitman largely controlled the round. Whitman dominated in the final until Landry knocked Whitman down and gave her a bloody nose. However, this was not enough, and Whitman won the fight by unanimous decision.

Ocean “The Matador” Leto of Welsh Family Hall def. Monica “Mc4” Caponigro of Pasquerilla East

The championship round fight between Caponigro and Leto got off to an exciting start with both fighters throwing rapid punches. Caponigro and Leto moved quickly, and the match remained fairly even until Leto managed multiple successive punches to Caponigro. Caponigro started the second round off by landing a series of punches. But,Leto did not back down, and the two exchanged blows until the bell sounded. The fighters went into the third round with a burst of energy, both fighting with vengeance. Caponigro landed multiple successive punches, which Leto repaid her with a few moments later. Leto attacked fiercely and landed an uppercut and a shot to the face. This late burst pushed Leto ahead, and she won the hard-fought match by unanimous decision.

Kim “The Grillmaster” Nguyen of Walsh Hall def. Nicole “Knuckles” Lies of Welsh Family Hall

Lies controlled the fight at the start, landing successive hits and dodged Nguyen’s punches effectively. She kept Nguyen on her heels for the majority of the first round. Both fighters came into the second round with increased intensity. Nguyen started off strong, but Lies fought back harder and continued to back Nguyen down. Nguyen started to tire towards the end of the second and stayed on the defensive until the bell rang. Lies continued to dominate in the final round, landing multiple hits to the head while also dodging most of Nguyen’s punches. Both fighters were slowing down by the finish, but Nguyen managed to finish strong, landing multiple punches to end the round.. Her performance late in the match earned Nguyen a split victory.

Frankie “Frank the Tank” Masciopinto of McGlinn Hall def. Sabrina “Golden Stinger” Curran of Flaherty Hall

The main event of the evening was the final round contest between Frankie “Frank the Tank” Masciopinto of McGlinn Hall and Sabrina “Golden Stinger” Curran of Flaherty Hall. Sabrina opened the match aggressively, landing several rapid hits and dodging most of Masciopinto’s punches. She kept Masciopinto on her heels and continued to land hits for most of the round. Masciopinto found a burst at the end of the round and backed Curran into a corner before the bell rang. Curren again opened the second round aggressively. The fighters traded punches, but the more technically sound Masciopinto controlled the fight for most of the round. The third round started evenly, with both fighters trading punches with tenacity. Curran then broke ahead, knocking Masciopinto to the ground and then landing a right hook moments later. However, it was not enough, and Masciopinto emerged as the victor by split decision.

JJ “Soldier Boy” Jorgensen def. Jessica “The Adjudicator” Vickery

Vickery did not show for the fight and Jorgensen won by default.


Irish seek to snap skid vs. Seminoles

Notre Dame volleyball faces Florida State this Friday at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish are looking to snap their six-game losing streak and improve their conference record.

Notre Dame has struggled in ACC play so far this season. The team is currently 4-10 in the ACC and lost its past six games in a row. By comparison, Florida State is 8-6 in the ACC, including three losses to ranked teams. The Seminoles also beat Notre Dame 3-0 earlier this season.

The last time the Irish and the Seminoles faced off, the Irish lost in three sets by an average of almost seven points per set. Notre Dame was led by graduate student outside hitter Clare Delaplane, who tallied nine kills. Freshman outside hitter Avery Ross tallied six. By comparison, Sydney Conley and sophomore Audrey Koenig led the Seminoles with 11 and 10 kills, respectively.

Ross is currently leading Notre Dame in kills, averaging 2.55 per set for a total of 191. She is followed by fellow freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump, who is averaging 2.52 kills per set for a total of 156. Trump’s performance in this upcoming match will be crucial in helping Notre Dame earn a more positive result this match.

At this point in the season, the Irish are no longer capable of finishing the season with a winning record overall or in the ACC. Consequently, the Irish will not qualify for the NCAA tournament this year, sitting 139th in the RPI rankings. The goal for the rest of the season is to finish strong and finish out the season with the best record possible. Rockwell and the Irish will seek a win against Florida State to help achieve this goal.

The Irish play the Seminoles at Purcell Pavilion this Friday at 6:30 p.m.


‘Something to build off of’: Irish eye March Madness return

Notre Dame Men’s Basketball begins their regular season this Thursday against Radford. The Irish will play two out-of-conference games and four Gotham classic games before beginning the 2022 ACC/Big 10 Challenge on November 30th.

Notre Dame has one preseason game under their belt as they head into the regular season. The Irish played Xavier Louisiana in an exhibition game last Wednesday, winning 67-52. It’s always good to win, but Notre Dame’s performance was lacking last week considering Xavier LA is an NAIA team. The Irish had 12 turnovers and shot less than 27% from three. Fifth year guard Dane Goodwin had a solid performance with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow fifth year forward Nate Laszewski also had a strong game with 12 points. Highly recruited freshman guard J.J. Starling added only two points.

Based on this performance, it seems the Irish will rely heavily on its superseniors this year. The team consists of six graduate students, four of whom started in the game against Xavier LA. The team relied almost entirely on its upperclassmen for scoring last week: grad students scored 59 of Notre Dame’s 67 points. Notre Dame’s graduate students, especially Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski, will have to consistently post high scoring performances for Notre Dame this year in order for the Irish to win games.

J.J. Starling was unexpectedly quiet in his first college game, scoring only two points in almost 32 minutes of play. He finished 1-7 from the field and 0-5 from three. However, his stat lines last week are not indicative of Starling’s skill or potential. At 6’4” and 200 lbs, Starling is a well-sized guard and physically ready to break into the college game. With his speed and size, Starling is a difficult opponent to guard. He should have no problem scoring and helping run the offense this season. It appears that Starling simply had a bad shooting night and is expected to improve as the season picks up. Glenn and Stacey Murphy Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Brey said of Starling’s performance:

“J.J. had one of those ‘first time in a uniform’ nights, but he got some great looks…and we’re gonna keep shooting ‘em.”

Starling was the eighteenth-ranked player in his high school class in the ESPN 100 rankings. This makes him Notre Dame’s highest-ranked recruit and only five-star ever. He will fill the shoes of last year’s “one-and-done” star Blake Wesley and hopefully lead the team to another NCAA tournament. The fact that Starling played 32 minutes while only scoring two points indicates Brey’s confidence in Starling’s abilities.

Two other freshmen, Ven-Allen Lubin and Dom Campbell, join the team along with Starling. Lubin is a four-star recruit and the seventy-fifth ranked player in the country in his high school class by ESPN. Campbell is a four-star recruit as well. Both players are forwards. Lubin in particular should contribute to the team this year, joining Laszewski in the frontcourt as a true post player. Coach Brey was happy with both players’ performances against Xavier LA and is optimistic about their abilities:

“Nate and Ven are our main big guys and I think they kind of got us started. Ven gave us 15 solid minutes…he can block a shot, hes long”

Standing at 6’8” and 225 lbs, Lubin has an advantage over most freshman forwards in the sense that he is physically ready to compete with older players. He will give the Irish additional size that they have been lacking in recent years.

Even with the addition of Lubin, Notre Dame’s guards will still have to rebound well in order for the team to succeed defensively. Graduate student Dane Goodwin spoke about actively focusing on rebounding in his play in a post-game interview last week:

 “I realize that’s gotta be a big priority for me this year, we’re playing a little smaller so I gotta get in there and grab some boards to help the team however I can.”

Despite their slow performance against Xavier LA, the Irish are confident about the upcoming season and the team. Goodwin is feeling optimistic about Notre Dame’s potential:

“I think we’re in a good spot, we have a week until our first official game…were gonna watch some film and kind of address it and move forward. There’s definitely something to build off of.”

The ACC Preseason Poll ranked Notre Dame sixth in the ACC. They are currently ranked one spot ahead of defending ACC champion Virginia Tech. North Carolina is currently ranked first in the ACC. They are expected to automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament by winning the ACC tournament. Notre Dame could automatically qualify in the unlikely scenario that they win the ACC tournament. However, it is more likely that they earn an at-large bid.

The Irish qualified for the NCAA tournament as an eleven seed last season for the first time in four years. They performed fairly well considering their rank, defeating sixth-ranked Alabama in the first round and losing to third-ranked Texas by only six points in the second round. As of November 8th, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi predicted that the Irish will earn an eleven seed again this season. Notre Dame is currently expected to be one of the “last four byes,” meaning that the Irish will be one of the last four teams to qualify for the tournament without having to play a play-in game. Based on this prediction and their performance last year, Notre Dame has a decent chance of making the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in seven years. 

Qualifying for a Sweet Sixteen this season would open up a new era of success for the Irish after a several-year rebuild period. Tournament success helps with recruiting and gives younger players important experience. The Irish will need solid contributions from the returners and Starling to step up to his full potential to achieve this level of success this season.

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Irish men’s soccer ties Pitt in last regular season contest

Notre Dame men’s soccer faced off against No. 23 Pitt last Friday in Pittsburgh in their last game of the regular season. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. 

Pitt controlled the game for most of the first half, leading Notre Dame 1-0 at halftime after a goal from Pitt junior Bertin Jacquesson. A few minutes into the second half, Pitt defender Yanis Leerman received his second yellow card and was ejected from the game. Notre Dame’s junior forward Daniel Russo took advantage of his absence and scored a goal to tie the game 1-1. His goal was assisted by sophomore forward Eno Nto. Neither team was able to score again, and the game ended in a tie. 

With the tie against Pitt, Notre Dame finished their season 8-6-2 overall, and 3-4-1 in the ACC. Pitt finished their season 7-3-5 overall and 3-2-3 in the ACC. 

Notre Dame now heads into the postseason as the No. 9 seed in the ACC. While Notre Dame is the current reigning ACC champion, they are unlikely to win the title for a second year in a row.

The Irish will try to survive the first round of the playoffs in their first tournament game against No. 8 Clemson. The game kicks off on Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. in Clemson, South Carolina and will be televised on the ACC network. Pitt earned a No. 6 seed in the ACC tournament and will play No. 11 NC State at 7 p.m. EST on Nov. 2 in Pittsburgh.


Irish prepare for key matchup with Blue Devils

The Notre Dame women’s soccer team takes on Duke this Thursday in their final regular season game. There is a lot on the line for both teams. Currently ranked fourth in the country and sitting in a three-way tie atop the ACC standings, the Irish are looking for their seventh consecutive win and a number-one seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Blue Devils, who are fourth in the ACC standings and eleventh in the country, are seeking an outside chance at the one-seed as well.

The game against Duke comes after an impressive series of wins for the Irish. After going 1-2 at the beginning of conference play, the Irish finally hit their stride and won their next six conference games. Notre Dame’s offense has relied on a balanced scoring effort in their recent wins: at least two players scored in five of Notre Dame’s past six wins.

Forwards Olivia Wingate and Kiki Van Zanten and midfielders Korbin Albert and Maddie Mercado in particular have led Notre Dame’s offensive efforts recently. Wingate is currently leading the Irish with 11 goals and 5 assists. Perhaps more even important to Notre Dame’s
recent success is the team’s defense: the Irish have not given up a goal since their 3-1 loss to Pitt over a month ago. In fact, they
have only given up eight goals the entire season. This places the Irish ninth in the country in goals-against. This elite defense
combined with a balanced offense makes the Irish prepared to defeat almost any opponent.

By comparison, Duke is only 3-2-1 in their past six games. Most notably, the Blue Devils recently lost 1-5 to then-No. 4 Florida
State, whom Notre Dame beat 4-0. Duke also has a far less effective defense than Notre Dame. Duke has allowed sixteen goals this
season to Notre Dame’s eight.

However, Duke is no easy opponent. A nationally ranked team themselves, the Blue Devils have proven that they too
can compete against the very best. Though they’re coming off a difficult stretch, the Blue Devils have maintained an 11-4-1
record against one of the toughest schedules in the country. Additionally, Duke has won two of its past three matchups against Notre Dame. They most recently beat Notre Dame 1-0 in overtime last year.

Duke’s team also includes three of last year’s All-ACC Women’s Soccer Team awardees, including former ACC Freshman of the Year Michelle Cooper. This matchup will pit the two top scores in the ACC against each other: Wingate and Cooper have each scored eleven goals this season. Notre Dame’s more well-rounded scoring crew may give the Irish an advantage in this matchup.

This key final regular-season game kicks off at 8:00 p.m. at Alumni Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.


Irish bring on four transfers, hoping for successful season

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team is locking in as they prepare for out-of-conference play to start next month. Their season opens on Nov. 7 versus Northern Illinois. 

Notre Dame’s season was cut short last year in a heartbreaking Sweet Sixteen loss to NC State. This season, the team is determined to build upon their performance. Head Coach Niele Ivey spoke about how last year’s loss is motivating the team this season.

“It’s something that’s always gonna be in the back of their heads. It gives them a chip on their shoulder. They know how good they can be, they showed it last year, so it’s about raising that standard, raising that expectation every day.”

The players themselves help their teammates meet these high expectations by holding each other accountable as well as cheering each other on. Players frequently exchange high fives during practice, but they don’t hesitate to offer criticism either. Sophomore guard Sonia Citron spoke about the importance of this practice. 

“I’ll get on my teammates if they’re not working hard, just like they’ll get on me, and its not personal, it’s just what we have to do to get better.” 

The Irish lost to NC State in the Sweet Sixteen by only three points, one of six losses last year that the Irish lost by five or fewer points. In such close games, effort and discipline are often the difference maker. As they prepare for this season, Notre Dame is focusing on limiting mistakes in order to win those close games.

“Every single practice we work on attention to detail and not making those silly little errors that can cost us that game,” Citron said.

Coach Ivey and the rest of the Notre Dame coaching staff also help their players emphasize these details frequently during practices, reminding players to sprint at full speed or “finish the first one” when a player misses a layup. This type of attention to detail in practice will help the Irish convert narrow losses into wins this season. 

Incoming recruits will be crucial to Notre Dame’s success this year. The Irish lost five of last year’s players, including four who transferred to other programs. The team is filling their places with four new recruits.

Guard KK Bransford from Cincinnati, OH, the only freshman joining the team, earned Ms. Ohio Basketball the past two years and is the seventh-ranked guard in her class. She has transitioned well to college so far, competing against older girls in practice and playing great man defense.

Citron spoke highly of Bransford’s abilities.

“Even though she’s so young she is so talented,” Citron said.

Along with Bransford, three transfer students are joining the Irish. Graduate transfer guard Jenna Brown joins the Irish from Stanford, where she won a national championship in 2021.

Coach Ivey believes that “playing with that championship caliber helps.”

Brown’s presence on the team brings experience to a team of young players. Brown underwent knee surgery two seasons ago and is currently practicing in a brace; however, she is moving well on the court and is expected to be a useful addition to the Notre Dame squad.

Fellow graduate transfer Lauren Ebo, a center from the University of Texas, earned Big 12 All-Tournament Team and All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades last year. Tall and strong, Ebo can score and rebound at will from the post. Her size gives the Irish an advantage, both because she is difficult to guard and also because her teammates are able to practice against a tougher opponent than they will usually face in games. Along with dominating on the court, Ebo is also a vocal leader both in practice and in the locker room. Coach Ivey said she can rely on Ebo to use her voice and experience to help her teammates.

Ebo also plays well with junior forward Kylee Watson, who joins the Irish from Oregon. Watson, who led the Ducks in shooting percentage last year, says she loves “being on the floor when Ebo just can go to work.” 

This type of positive team dynamic will be important to Notre Dame’s success this year. Culture is essential to any successful program, but especially one where four out of nine scholarship players are brand new to the program. Watson said that the smaller roster has actually helped the team bond. 

“It’s so much easier to build chemistry when you have a smaller roster … hanging out outside of basketball and just being close, obviously that plays a role in how much we trust each other and want to play for each other.” 

The positive team culture is obvious as you watch the Irish joke around while stretching and as they exchange personalized handshakes before the start of practice. The team looks cohesive and disciplined, and they’re having fun on the court. This is a Notre Dame team that is prepared to take the Irish to another Final Four.

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Irish face off against Wolfpack, look to stay in playoff contention

Notre Dame women’s soccer hosts NC State this Thursday in their fifth conference game of the season. The sixteenth-ranked Irish take on the Wolfpack one week after a win against Boston College. Notre Dame dominated Boston College last week, winning three to nothing and leading the Eagles sixteen to seven in shots and six to two in corner kicks. Junior midfielder Eva Gaetino returned to play against BC after exiting early with a head injury in the game against Pitt.

Now 2-2 in the ACC, the Irish are looking to dominate in their next six games leading up to the ACC tournament at the end of the month. 

The game against NC State will test Notre Dame’s ability to perform consistently against ACC competition. The Irish have had trouble performing consistently in ACC play so far, alternating wins and loses across their four conference games. The team hopes that last week’s strong performance against Boston College will set the tone for the rest of conference play. NC State is currently ranked 9th in the ACC, three spots behind the 6th-ranked Irish.

Notre Dame averages 2.36 goals per game compared to NC State’s 1.38. Notre Dame also only gives up an average of .73 goals per game, while NC State gives up an average of 1.23. 

Also 2-2 in the ACC, the Wolfpack has had similar struggles with consistency as the Irish have. NC State recently suffered a crushing 6-0 loss against Duke, but rebounded last Thursday to beat Clemson, who beat Notre Dame 2-1 earlier in the season. Their performance against Clemson proves that the Wolfpack can’t be overlooked. That being said, NC State has yet to beat a nationally ranked team, going 0-1-2 against ranked opponents. It seems NC State has been unable to deliver in tough games so far. This bodes well for the sixteenth-ranked Irish, especially on their home pitch. 

At this point in the season, both teams are competing to earn a spot in the ACC tournament.. The top six teams in the ACC qualify for conference playoffs. Currently Notre Dame is sixth in the ACC, so from here on out every game is important for keeping the Irish in playoff contention. The Irish face two more nationally ranked opponents in their final six games of the regular season. Given this challenging schedule, the Irish will look to earn a win while they can.

NC State is currently ranked ninth, but the sixth through ninth-ranked teams all have the same ACC record. A few wins could easily put NC State in the running for the playoffs as well. 

This match up kicks off on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Alumni Stadium. It will also be streamed on the ACC Network.

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Irish women’s soccer looks to rebound against Eagles

Notre Dame women’s soccer takes on Boston College Thursday for its third ACC conference game of the season. The Irish are seeking to balance their ACC record after a loss to Pitt at home left them 1-2 in ACC play. After going 7-0 in non-conference play, the Irish have faced more difficulty against ACC teams. The game against Boston College is a chance for the team to redeem its record after the disappointing 3-1 loss to Pitt last Sunday.

At its best, the women’s soccer team is certainly capable of competing with the nation’s best talent; just last week the Irish beat the University of Virginia, at the time the second-ranked team in the country. However, the team has struggled to keep up this quality of play against other high-level opponents. The Irish have performed inconsistently in ACC play thus far, losing to Clemson in their first conference game of the season in addition to the recent loss against Pitt. Notre Dame head coach Nate Norman acknowledged this inconsistency when he said, “Some days are not your best and you figure out ways to grind it out.” 

The ACC is arguably the best conference in women’s soccer, boasting seven teams ranked in the top twenty-five by ESPN. As a result, conference play will not get any easier for Notre Dame. The Irish need to figure out how to consistently compete at a high level as they start to face tougher opponents if they want to maintain their spot in the national rankings.

The game against Boston College should provide Notre Dame with an opportunity to score a conference win. Boston College is currently 4-4-3, and have lost all three of their ACC games so far. And, Notre Dame will be their fourth ranked opponent in a row. The Irish will try to take advantage of the Eagle’s exhaustion after their recent tough schedule to pick up another conference win. Boston College does have the home advantage, but so far they haven’t had much luck on their own pitch. The Eagles are currently 2-2-2 at home, including a dramatic 0-6 loss to Florida State. Conversely, Notre Dame has yet to lose an away game against an unranked opponent. 

However, Notre Dame may be at a disadvantage this Thursday depending on the injury status of junior center back Eva Gaetino. Gaetino missed the second half of the game against Pitt due to a head injury, and it is unclear when she will return to play. Norman said after the game that he doesn’t have a timeline of her recovery yet. Losing Gaetino mid-game hurt Notre Dame’s performance in the second half against Pitt. Norman stated that losing Gaetino forced him to “really shuffle things around.” The Irish were unable to hit their stride again after she unexpectedly exited the game.

The Irish travel to Boston for the game, which starts Thursday at 6 p.m. EST. It will be broadcasted on the ACC network.

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Young Belles squad looks to make mark in MIAA

Saint Mary’s College soccer begins its conference play Wednesday at 4 p.m. against Trine. The team will play eight regular-season conference games, and up to three Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) tournament games, should it qualify. The season got off to a rocky start, as the Belles went 0-5-3 in non-conference play. Head coach Farkhod Kurbonov describes one major source of the team’s struggles so far.

“We’re young, and our preseason is so short at the Division III level, that it took us some time to get used to each other and understand our roles on the team,” Kurbonov said.

With nine freshmen, three transfers and Kurbonov brand new to the program himself, the team is in the process of rebuilding. Kurbonov, who previously coached at the club, junior college, NAIA and DII levels, is tasked in his first season with laying a strong foundation to build upon in the future. Kurbonov describes his young team as excited and ambitious, saying, “I believe in the future it’s a very exciting team, but for right now we’re young and hungry.” 

After a slow start this season, the Belles are viewing the beginning of MIAA play as the start of a whole new season. Non-conference play has given the players the opportunity to get on the same page, adjust to the team culture, and for the nine freshmen, get used to the pace and intensity of college soccer. Kurbonov spoke on the progress the team has made in this area.

“Something I think we’re good at is discipline as a team and the organizational part of it… my players are starting to respond the way I would like them to respond,” Kurbonov said.  

This season, Kurbonov and the Belles are looking to improve upon last season’s performance, when the team went 1-7 and missed the playoffs. Kurbonov said this year the team’s goal is to make the playoffs and build from there.

“Long term is complete for the title and make nationals and so on, but for this season, we want to start making small steps, having a strong conference season and making the playoffs,” Kurbonov said.

The current freshmen will be very important to both the Belles’ short-term and long-term goals. The team’s success in conference play this year will largely depend upon whether or not the freshmen, especially those in the starting lineup, can quickly adjust to the demands of college athletics. In the future, they will be responsible for building a new team culture under Coach Kurbonov. With some experience under their belts, the freshmen and the team as a whole are now ready to take on the second half of their schedule. They hope that non-conference play prepared the team to play up to their potential in the games where it really counts.

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Young stars in Aces’ WNBA Title

The WNBA Finals came to a close last Sunday when the Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the final series. The 78-71 victory gave the Aces their first franchise championship. This season, the WNBA returned to a series model for all rounds of the playoffs instead of single-elimination games. The first round was a best-of-three series, and the semifinal and final rounds were both best-of-five series. The first-ranked Aces defeated the Phoenix Mercury 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs and then the Seattle Storm 3-1 in the semifinal round. On the other side of the bracket, the third-ranked Connecticut Sun defeated the Dallas Wings 2-1 in the first round and the Chicago Sky 3-2 in the semifinal round. The Aces went on to defeat the Sun 3-1 in the final series.

The game opened with a quick basket by Sun guard DeWanna Bonner, but the Aces recovered and jumped to a 10-point lead with two minutes left in the first quarter. The Sun clawed their way back into the game, scoring nine straight points in the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. However, they were unable to take the lead, and Las Vegas finished the first half leading 30-28.

The third quarter remained tight, with neither team leading by more than five points the entire quarter. Former Notre Dame star Jackie Young scored six of her thirteen points in the third quarter and added a steal to keep the Aces ahead by four heading into the fourth quarter. The Aces managed to maintain their small lead until Brionna Jones of the Sun sunk two free throws to put her team up by one point with just under two minutes left in the game. However, the Sun did not score again after that, and the Aces cruised to their first-ever championship. The Aces’ Chelsea Gray was named the finals MVP, finishing the game with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Former Notre Dame guard Jackie Young also contributed a balanced effort to the Aces’ victory, finishing with 13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

A former star for the Irish, Young left Notre Dame for the WNBA a year early, which is uncommon for female athletes. She was the first overall pick in the 2019 draft. She had a breakout season this year, earning the 2022 WNBA Most Improved Player award, and also finished eleventh in ESPN’s post-season rankings after beginning the 2022 season unranked. Young averaged 15.9 points per game during the regular season and continued to fill the stat lines during the playoffs, averaging 12.5 points, 3 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game in the postseason. She played a key role in most of the Aces’ playoff wins, most notably by hitting a buzzer-beater in Game Three of the Finals to send the game into overtime. Young is expected to stay with the Aces next season.