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Albert announces she’ll forgo eligibility ahead of European move

Saturday afternoon Notre Dame women’s soccer star Korbin Albert announced via Instagram that she would be forgoing her remaining collegiate eligibility to play professionally.

Though her destination is not yet official, reports have indicated she’ll be signing with PSG. CBS’s Sandra Herrera mentioned the news as a possibility earlier in the week. Local outlet Le Parisien also picked up the news a day later.

Such a declaration marks historic news for the Irish women’s soccer program. Notre Dame has never had a player forgo eligibility to leave for a club the stature of PSG. In fact, only one women’s soccer player at any program has forgone eligibility to play for a Champions League-level club in recent memory. That was Stanford and Lyon’s Catarina Macario in 2019. Macario is widely regarded as one of the best college soccer players ever. It is big news for the Irish and their future recruiting that Albert has now joined that exclusive list.

Albert over the last year established herself as arguably the best midfielder in college soccer. Capable of producing as both a finisher and a creator, Albert notched 16 goals and five assists. Both marked team-highs for Notre Dame. Playing as an attacking midfielder, Albert represented the heart of Notre Dame’s 3-5-2 formation. She often started attacks out of thin air with her pinpoint passes and penchant for long-range attempts on goal.

The Irish enjoyed a resurgent 2022 campaign, reaching the ACC semi-finals and the national elite eight. Albert played a crucial role in their efforts. In several of Notre Dame’s games against elite opposition, it was the sophomore midfielder who nearly single-handedly powered the team to victory. 

The most notable such game came against Florida State in the ACC semi-final in Cary, North Carolina. On two different occasions, the Irish fell behind against a Seminole side that would go on to win the conference crown. Both times it was Albert who brought Notre Dame back to level terms with long-shot efforts. Albert went on to give the Irish a brief lead with a third shot from distance. A late Florida State equalizer brought the game to overtime, and Notre Dame lost an ill-fated penalty kick shootout. 

Albert’s brilliance also shined in a key clash against Duke. The Blue Devils went on to finish No. 6 in national rankings. The sophomore was the only Irish player to find the back of the net against the Blue Devils, converting both a penalty and a vicious curled strike in a 2-2 draw.

If the current buzz is true, Albert will be joining a PSG squad in the thick of a title race. The Parisians sit second in the table in France’s DI Arkema behind Olympique Lyonnais. They’re just a single point behind current leaders Lyon, with nine matches to play in the season.

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Irish dominate annual DeCicco Duals

By Annika Herko, Olivia Schatz and Aidan Thomas

The Notre Dame Fencing program hosted the annual DeCicco Duals this past weekend, welcoming in a series of Division II and Division III programs, as well as club teams. Both the men and women went 12-0 on the weekend, as the meet served as an opportunity to work their depth and tune up for bigger tournaments to come. 

“We were able to give some more space to our second and third line,” assistant coach Christian Rascioni noted after the tournament. “Overall, a very good amount of bouts. An interesting weekend.”

Saturday

Notre Dame faced Wayne State (Division II) in their first match. Leading off for the Irish in foil was freshman Paulo Morais who won his first bout 5-2. They were delayed slightly as the sensors on their blade tips seemed not to be reading correctly — this happened occasionally throughout the tournament. The men went 7-2. For the women in foil, Tianji Lukina, Daena Talavera and Ariadna Tucker all lost to their competitor Ludovica Mancini from Wayne State in competitive, well-paced matches. However, as she was their only female fencer in foil, the Irish women won 6-3 in that blade. In epee, Riley Robinson won a back-and-forth match against his competitor that caused everyone not currently in a bout to come and watch. Against the Warriors, Notre Dame’s women’s team won 24-3, and the men took a 20-7 victory. 

Notre Dame faced Florida (a club team) in the third round of the tournament. Grant Dorill, Henry Nadile and Konrad Czyzewski won all of their bouts for sabre. The most exciting one was Czyzewski’s second bout against Florida’s Brian Seol. Both fencers came out strong from the beginning, screaming in celebration with each point scored. In the one point bout, Czyzewski came out victorious. Both the women’s and men’s teams went undefeated in sabre helping the Irish to a 26-1 win in the match for the women and 25-2 for men vs. the Gators.

In the fourth round of the competition, Notre Dame fenced against Lawrence (Division 3). Anne Myler 5-3 got the first win in epee for the Irish women’s team. Graduate student Miriam Grady then defeated her competitor 5-0 in bout with elegant footwork and swift strikes (the Lawrence team did not have names on the back of their uniforms). Grady seemed to have no trouble handling her but moved decisively with each touch. After losses in their first bouts, Tontcheva and Cucala battled to 5-4 and 5-2 victories, respectively, over their competitors by taking up aggressive attacks. The Women’s team went 7-2 in epee helping the Irish go 6-3 in the match. The Men’s team went 24-3 in epee and 20-7 in their third match of the day. 

After the match, sabre coach Christian Rasconi was impressed with what he saw out of his young team and noted how he thinks they can improve. 

“We were not starting with the first line, but had the second and even third line in and most of them are freshmen. It’s a very good opportunity to build their experience. We started a little slower than we were expecting but so far they’ve done a good job. We need to learn to be ready at the right moment. When we’re starting, we absolutely need to be ready.”

After a dominating morning, the Fighting Irish opened up their afternoon set against Detroit Mercy. Again, Notre Dame did not take their foot off the gas as both the men’s and women’s teams defeated Detroit Mercy, 27-0. 

The men’s team only gave up 8 points to the Titans, all of which were lost in the Epee bouts. Even with these small downfalls, the closest matchup was 5-2 in two separate matches. 

The women’s team were in a similar vein, only giving up 11 points throughout the first round, eight of which were in Epee. The other three points were all in Sabre, where the closest bouts were 5-1  

“We have a lot of energy, I love it,” assistant coach Rolando Tucker-Leon said, “ I really loved the energy, we had a lot of energy and positivity. We fight, I really loved it.” 

This energy was palpable throughout the entire afternoon, as bout after bout Irish fencers were cheering on their fellow teammates as they dominated the weekend. 

While the Irish did lose some bouts against their second opponent of the afternoon, Cleveland State, they ultimately won by a large margin on both teams. 

The men notched 21 wins to the Viking’s six. Out of these, six were one-touch bouts. Of the six, the Irish only won two. With this, however, four out of the six victories for Cleveland State came out of one touch matches. 

The women also dominated with a 23-4 victory over the vikings. Again, the Irish had six one-touch matches. All four of Cleveland State’s victories were won in this manner. 

To close off Saturday’s tournament, both the men and women’s teams defeated their last opponent Denison 27-0. 

While the Irish undoubtedly dominated the tournament, it is important that there is an opportunity for regional schools to participate in tournaments like this. In addition, due to the level of competition, Notre Dame was able to rotate their roster and have younger faces fence for the Irish. 

“It’s a great thing,” Tucker-Leon said. “We are bringing new people and many more people are falling in love with this sport and it’s something I really love to see.” 

Sunday

Sunday morning was faced with similar energy from the Irish. When asked about his expectations for Sunday’s matchups, Tucker-Leon responded: 

“Of course I have expectations to beat everybody and win all the matches and have a lot of fun.” 

The Irish surely did meet Tucker-Leon’s expectations as on the day the men and women’s team combined dropped a total of 23 points: there was a total of 324 points up for grabs on Sunday. 

Starting early at 9 a.m. against Purdue, Notre Dame was ready. The only loss for the women’s team against the Boilermakers was in foil, and they took care of the remaining 26 matches handily, only three of which were one-touch bouts. 

The men’s team dropped two points against Purdue, one in sabre and one in foil. 

University of Chicago was the closest matchup for the Irish. However, Notre Dame sealed their victory. The men’s team lost six matchups, spread throughout all three disciplines, while the women’s team only dropped two, both in sabre. 

In their last matchup of the morning, Notre Dame women’s team swept Michigan, only allowing four bouts to reach the maximum nine touches. 

The men’s team lost five bouts but pulled through in the end. 

“Something we need to keep in mind is even though lately we are used to win[ning] that we need to be thinking that we can not take these victories for granted and fight every single point for the victory,” Tucker-Leon said.

The Irish wrapped up their efforts with wins over Case Western. The men won 23-4 and the women triumphed 27-0. In total, the women won three of their matches via a 27-0 scoreline on Sunday, dropping five bouts in total on the day. Rascioni noted that the Irish did well to focus on their own improvements while not losing focus. “It’s the perfect occasion to work on some specifics. At the same time, keeping the focus on winning the bouts. Keeping it very simple.” 

The Irish also mixed it up in the tournament finale, with some fencers switching away from their speciality to try a different weapon.

“It’s fun sometimes for the kids to try some different weapons and work some different skills, always minding that we try to not drop any bouts,” Rascioni said.

The Irish head to the Northwestern Duals for another smaller tournament next weekend. They will then return to the East coast to face some higher-level competition at Duke.

“It’s never easy. We work a lot in the training sessions to get them ready. We try to keep the focus always high and to adapt to different situations,” Rascioni said. “To fence more expert fencers or to face a little less challenging situations.”

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu, Olivia Schatz at oschatz@nd.edu and Aidan Thomas at athoma28@nd.edu.

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‘This is where we should be’: Irish use dominant first half to take down Louisville

Four minutes into their Saturday afternoon home matchup with Louisville, it looked like Notre Dame men’s basketball was in for a dogfight. Trailing 9-7, it was shaping up to be a game in which neither team gained separation until the final seconds.

Fast forward three more minutes, Notre Dame had rattled off a lightning-fast 13-0 run, and it became clear that it would not be one of those games, the kind that the Irish have become so familiar with in recent weeks. Instead, it would be the kind that they have been waiting for all season, where they roll to a drama-free, 76-62 victory.

“It feels good. I wouldn’t say we’re surprised. I think we’ve never lost faith in this group. We all know what we’re capable of,” graduate student guard Cormac Ryan said about the team’s performance. “Being able to go out and execute, it’s a good feeling. But we looked at the scoreboard and it wasn’t like, ‘we’re happy to be here’. This is where we should be, and this is where we know we can be.”

Turnovers were an area that the Irish needed to improve upon in order to reach that elevated level of play, both in terms of forcing more and giving away fewer. Tuesday night’s loss against NC State saw them finish minus-13 in the turnover margin, but Saturday’s game was a different story.

Ryan set the tone by recording steals on Louisville’s opening two possessions. By the time the first half was over, the Cardinals had turned the ball over eight times to the Irish’s zero. Notre Dame finished the game with just three turnovers while tallying 16 assists. Eight of those came from Ryan, who referred to the Irish’s ball movement as quintessential Notre Dame basketball. He gave all the credit to the shot-making of his teammates.

“I got some tricks up my sleeve, I can throw it around a little bit,” Ryan said with a laugh after setting a new career-high assists mark. “Look, in order to get an assist, guys [have to] make shots. We’ve got talented guys who were knocking down shots tonight. I’m happy to do my part.”

Many of those knocked-down shots came from freshman guard JJ Starling, who was dynamic throughout the game in what was likely the best all-around performance of his college career. Starling finished with a game-high 22 points and did everything. He scored from all three levels, soared for contested rebounds (finishing with six total, three offensive) and played hard defense throughout.

The highlight of the game came when Starling picked off a Louisville pass and turned it into a dunk on the other end in the final seconds of the first half. That play capped off an individual 7-0 scoring run from Starling and extended the Irish’s halftime advantage to 46-24. To Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, Starling’s breakout performance is indicative of a young player who has been steadily improving all season long.

“Understanding how to be focused on a daily basis in practice and throughout a game,” Brey said of Starling’s growth. “You see what he can do physically, and I think he’s learning that that’s an amazing weapon and advantage that he has.”

Starling mentioned his teammates as a catalyst for his big scoring performance. However, he was more concerned with getting the Irish back into the winning column.

“Seeing the ball go in, my teammates were making shots. That just got my energy up and I just started hitting [shots] as well,” Starling said. “Honestly, I just want to do my job to get wins, whether that’s me scoring like I did tonight or having five points. I just want to do my job, my part, and that comes defensively first.”

Credit: Max Petrosky | The Observer

Following Notre Dame’s struggles to effectively defend during its four-game losing streak, the entire team seemed to buy in defensively. The effort paid dividends on Saturday. The Irish had given up at least 80 points in each of their last three games, but Louisville barely crossed the 20-point threshold in the first half. They finished with just 62. Notre Dame keyed in on Cardinals guard El Ellis, the team’s leading scorer at over 17 points per game, and held him to just eight. The Irish defense also forced 12 turnovers and committed just 13 fouls.

While the Cardinals got hot in the second half, shooting 62% from the floor, they had dug too deep of a hole to ever get back within striking distance. Brey praised Notre Dame’s effort defensively, noting the effectiveness of their match-up zone in improving defensive communication. It also helped them withstand the loss of their best interior defender, freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin, who is expected back next game after suffering a minor ankle injury.

“I thought we were pretty good defensively, very good defensively in the first half. We played a little bit of this match-up zone,” Brey said. “It really helps us protect the paint and also makes a quiet team talk more.”

Notre Dame’s big halftime lead would continue to get bigger, peaking at 30 early in the second half. That’s when Louisville suddenly began making shots and the Irish suddenly began missing. The Cardinals started full-court pressing, consistently setting Notre Dame up with open shot attempts in transition. But after making seven three-pointers in the first half, the Irish connected on just three in the second, allowing Louisville to slowly chip away at the lead.

With the deficit at just 14 and over eight minutes still to play, Irish fans may have started to sweat, but the Cardinals would never get any closer. After ceding 14 consecutive points and not scoring for over six minutes, Notre Dame snapped the streak with a pair of Starling free throws. Soon after, graduate student forward Nate Laszewski buried a dagger three-pointer, and the Irish finished off a 76-62 victory. Beyond Starling’s 22 points and Ryan’s 11-point, eight-assist performance, Laszewski scored 17 and graduate student guard Dane Goodwin added a double-double to guide the Irish to their first win in nearly three weeks.

Brey commended his team for having the character and mental fortitude to bring their best effort every day in practice even when it wasn’t translating to wins.

“I’ll give this group credit, though. They’ve come in and worked even though they’ve been punched,” Brey said. “I think our seniors have kept that practice habit going.”

While that may be the case, Brey said it’s certainly easier to find that energy throughout the week following a big win like Saturday’s.

“You always practice better after a win, man,” Brey said. “You got a little spring in your step.”

The win improved the Irish to 10-12 (2-9 ACC) on the year. It also pushed them to 1-0 in games in which Brey wears a suit, after he participated in Suits And Sneakers Week to support the Coaches vs. Cancer program. So what will he be wearing next Saturday when the Irish host Wake Forest, seeking their second straight ACC victory?

“I’ll tell you one thing [about] that suit: I’m dry-cleaning this sucker and it’s coming out Saturday, you can guarantee it,” Brey said. “I’m riding the suit.”

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey calls out to a player during the game between Notre Dame and Wisconsin at the Purcell Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. Credit: Max Petrosky | The Observer
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Irish swim and dive place second behind Ohio State in Tim Welsh Classic

Notre Dame swim and dive welcomed Ohio State, Akron and Indiana State to Rolfs Aquatic Center this weekend for the program’s final home meet of the 2022-23 season, the Tim Welsh Classic.

Both the Irish men and women placed second in the two-day contest behind fifth-ranked Buckeye men’s and women’s teams.

Outside the water, former diving coach Caiming Xie was recognized Friday night for his 25 years at the helm of Notre Dame diving. Saturday morning 19 Irish seniors were honored alongside their parents.

The meet comes just weeks before the ACC championships in mid-February, followed by the NCAA championships in March. Head coach Chris Lindauer said the weekend was all about swimmers cleaning up the tools they’ve been developing all season.

“The grind, the hard work, that’s already been put in…,” Lindauer said. “We really like to focus on component swimming. For me that involves a couple of things, but the biggest thing is athleticism.”

In addition to sharpening up the water sport’s athletically driven components such as starts, turns, breakouts and underwaters, Lindauer added that keeping his student-athletes well-rested is crucial.

“Giving these guys some time to recover, rest, prepare mentally, physically, get ahead on school as they go into championship season, that really helps reduce stress,” Lindauer said. “You want to be able to go to the meet and swim freely… coming out and just go have some fun and race.”

The Notre Dame men performed strongly as a team in freestyle, taking home the gold in the men’s 200-yard and 800-yard freestyle relays. Senior Jack Hoagland, a member of the men’s 800-yard freestyle relay squad, struck gold individually as well, triumphing in the men’s 400-yard individual medley (IM) and men’s 500-yard freestyle.

Backstroke was another high point for the Irish men. Senior Jack Fitzpatrick placed first in the men’s 100-yard backstroke and freshman Tommy Janton punched in a first-place finish of his own in the 200-yard race.

A pair of Irish seniors from the women’s program, Ellie Jew and Coleen Gillilan, took the top spot on the podium as well. Jew secured the quickest time in the women’s 200-yard, and Gillilan did likewise in the women’s 200-yard butterfly.

On the diving end of the pool, head coach Mark Bradshaw said sophomore Callie Brady and freshman Daniel Knapp dove their best of the season.

Brady’s performance was good enough for first place in the women’s 1-meter diving event, and graduate student Allie Klein followed with a silver. In both the men’s 1-meter and 3-meter diving events, Knapp recorded second-place finishes.

Bradshaw said the enthusiasm of the large hometown crowd over the weekend was appreciated, especially for the seniors not headed to the ACC or NCAA championships. But energy also reminded Bradshaw of the competition to come.

“They’re rounding into championship form,” Bradshaw said. “We still have a couple months left in our season, but competition-wise, we’re coming down to the end.”

Bradshaw and Lindauer did not downplay what a privilege it is to perform at home facilities. Lindauer added that the program had an excellent opportunity to put its character on display at the meet.

“How are we bonding together? How are we communicating together? What is the energy like on deck?” are questions Lindauer has prompted the team with all season.

“I know [little things like team cheers] seem simple, but energy in the team area is contagious,” Lindauer said. “When that is positive, you can expect great things to come out of it.”

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.

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Irish comeback falls short in 69-65 loss to Wolfpack

Sunday afternoon Notre Dame women’s basketball suffered their third loss of the season, falling 69-65 to North Carolina State on the road in Raleigh.

The Irish started and ended well, outscoring the Wolfpack in both the first and fourth quarters. But their efforts were undone by poor performances over the middle two periods.

Head Coach Niele Ivey was shorthanded from the start. Graduate student center Lauren Ebo was a late scratch from the rotation due to an undisclosed injury. While Ebo did travel with the team to Raleigh, she was reportedly in a boot and unable to play. Notre Dame struggled to establish themselves down low in Ebo’s absence. Their makeshift frontcourt platoon of usual starter Kylee Watson and rotational forward Natalija Marshall combined for just seven points and five rebounds.

The Irish did get a boost thanks to a breakout performance by early enrollee freshman Cassandre Prosper. Prosper had perhaps the best showing of her short career in South Bend, playing a career-high 26 minutes. The freshman notched 11 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter to cut the Wolfpack lead down to three. Prosper also continued her usual activity elsewhere on the stat sheet, adding four rebounds, a block and a steal.

Maddy Westbeld was another major contributor to the Irish effort. She played nearly the entire game and came away with a double-double for her efforts. Notre Dame relied on Westbeld more in the paint than usual against the Wolfpack with Ebo unavailable, and the junior grabbed 13 rebounds. Olivia Miles finished second behind Westbeld’s team-high 19 points with 13 points of her own. She also dished out 5 assists. In what could be a sign of things to come in the Irish rotation post-injury to graduate student guard Dara Mabrey, Miles played 37 minutes. Westbeld and Miles were off the court for a combined 5 minutes and 45 seconds.

Looking ahead the Irish will now head up to Chestnut Hill for the second of their two game road swing against Boston College on Thursday. Notre Dame has already faced the Eagles once this year, an 85-48 victory on New Year’s Day in South Bend. 

Regardless of prior contests, the major storyline until Thursday will be Lauren Ebo’s health and availability. The Irish demonstrated Sunday they could still hang around with a ranked opponent without her in the rotation. However, they also clearly are a weaker team when she’s not on the floor. With the exception of Jenna Brown and Natalija Marshall who both played minor roles in the loss to the Wolfpack, Ivey only rotated 6 players on and off the court without Ebo available.

And even if the Irish are able to handle the Eagles without her, they’ll then stare down a test against No. 16 Duke on Sunday. That matinee clash at Purcell could very well be a matchup between the top two teams in the ACC standings. If so, it will likely loom large with regard to seeding in both the conference and national tournaments. 

Notre Dame will next play Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

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Irish take down No. 13 USC before losing to No. 6 Georgia

After a dominating start to their season, Notre Dame women’s tennis beat No. 13 USC before losing to No. 6 Georgia at the ITA Kickoff Weekend. 

Unranked Irish stun Trojans

The Irish traveled to Atlanta, GA where they started off the weekend against the Trojans. While the start of the afternoon did not bode well for the Irish, they quickly turned it around. Irish senior Page Freeman and freshman Bojana Pozder lost 6-3 to USC, before junior Yashna Yellayi and freshman Rylie Hanford lost 7-5. The third doubles round was never finished. 

Despite the Trojans notching an early point, the Irish did not sit idly. Freshman Akari Matsuno started the momentum for the Irish in the sixth spot as she won swiftly in two sets (6-3, 6-3). However, the Trojans were able to pull back into the lead as No. 2 ranked Madison Sieg beat junior Julia Andreach also in two sets (6-4, 7-5) on the second court. Then, on the fourth court, No. 102 freshman Nibi Ghosh took on No. 83 Emma Charney. Despite the match staying close, Charney clutched the win for the Trojans bringing USC to a 3-1 lead on the day. However, this was the last point the Trojans would win.

Despite playing multiple ranked athletes, Notre Dame did not falter. Yellayi was the first to beat a ranked opponent on Court No. 3 although she lost the first set, 4-6 to No. 17 Snow Han, Yellayi would come back and win 6-2 in the second and third sets. On the top court, Freeman took on No. 24 Eryn Cayetano. While Freeman took care of the first set 7-5, Cayetano would win the second 6-3. Freeman pulled through in the third set with a 6-4 victory. 

Finally, Pozder was fighting in the third spot. Again, the Irish-Trojan matchup went to three sets, but it was Pozder who would take the point. The freshman clinched the victory bringing Notre Dame to 4-3 on the day. 

Irish falter in singles on Sunday

While the victory over USC surely proved Notre Dame’s talent, their momentum did not help when they played against No. 6 Georgia on Sunday. 

The Irish started out strong, unlike in their bout against the Trojans. Andreach and sophomore Carrie Beckman would bring the first win of the night for the Irish (6-3). This would be followed by Yellayi and freshman Rylie Hanford clinching the only point for the Irish (6-3). Freeman and Pozder’s match would go unfinished.   

However, Georgia smothered any hope the Irish had in winning the match. The Bulldogs won four matches in a row, none of which went on to a third set. Freeman and Matsuno’s matches would go unfinished. 

Although the Irish ultimately fell to Georgia, knocking down USC and beating multiple ranked players proved Notre Dame as fierce competition. Although they didn’t receive any votes in the most recent ranking, the Irish upset victory may change that this week.  

Notre Dame’s schedule does not get easier. The Irish travel to Champaign, IL on Feb. 5 to face off against Illinois. Looking down the line, Notre Dame also faces off against No. 5 Duke, No. 2 North Carolina and No. 25 Georgia Tech. To last in this division, Notre Dame must continue to win against ranked and competitive teams. 

The first step in their journey will be on Friday, Feb. 5 against Illinois at 11 a.m. EST.

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Three Irish skaters nominated for prestigious Hobey Baker Award

As this weekend’s important conference series against Wisconsin approaches, three Notre Dame skaters have been nominated for college hockey’s most prestigious award. But don’t tell them that. 

With the Irish in the thick of the hunt to make the NCAA Tournament, individual awards are not at the forefront of their minds.

“I didn’t know it was coming out or anything, so I got a text and thought, ‘This is pretty cool!’ It was never on my mind at all,” senior forward Trevor Janicke said. He, along with graduate student defenseman Nick Leivermann and senior goaltender Ryan Bischel, were nominated for the Hobey Baker Award.

The award, named after one of the greatest American athletes of the twentieth century, Hobey Baker, is given out annually to the most excellent all-around player in men’s college hockey. Despite its status as an individual accomplishment, all three Irish were quick to pass off the praise. 

“It’s not an individual award at all,” Janicke said, whose eight goals and 17 points lead the team. “It’s a testament to my teammates and the coaches as well.”

For Leivermann, the team’s captain, seeing his and his teammates’ names on the list of 86 nominees is especially meaningful. 

“One other thing that’s special for us [to see] is all the other guys in the country right now that are up for [the award]. Those guys are all pretty high-end talent names, so any time you’re in a category of the top players in college hockey, it feels pretty good,” Leivermann said. “You’re doing something right. It’s a testament to everybody, not just us, and we are pretty grateful.”

All three have taken different paths to earning their nomination. 

Goaltender Ryan Bischel, for instance, was not initially named to the list of nominees. Yet, 52 and 42-save performances in last weekend’s games at No. 6 Penn State caught the attention of the committee, who added Bischel to the list this week. 

His late addition has nothing to do with a lack of qualifications. The netminder has been a stalwart for the Irish, racking up 824 total saves, the most in college hockey. His .928 save percentage is fifth-best nationally, and best among goaltenders who have played 1,000 minutes or more. Earlier this month, Bischel was also named to the watch list for the Mike Richter Award, given to the nation’s top goaltender.

As the team’s go-to goalie, Bischel has started every game this season to date, and he ranks second nationally in minutes played. What’s his secret to staying sharp so consistently?

“I spend a lot of time in the hot tub,” Bischel said, half laughing. “Focusing on taking care of my body has been a big emphasis here.”

Being prepared mentally has also been a focus for Bischel, who said that football coach Marcus Freeman’s message to the team earlier this month helped him stay in the moment, “one shot at a time.”

For forward Trevor Janicke, the path to his nomination has been bolstered by a strong second half of the season. The Maple Grove, Minnesota, native has been finding his offensive rhythm of late. He has tallied five goals in the last seven games.

Such success in his senior season at Notre Dame is extra special for Janicke because of his family ties to the program. Janicke’s Dad, Curtis, was a forward with the Irish from 1989-1993. His brother, Justin, is a sophomore on the team. The brothers have played together for the first time in their hockey careers during the last two seasons.

“I basically have been bleeding gold and blue since I was born. I knew the Notre Dame fight song when I was, like, two years old,” Janicke said. “My whole life, this was my dream.”

Leivermann, returning for his fifth and final season with the Irish this year, is one of the most important members of this Notre Dame squad. As usual, Leivermann is putting up good offensive numbers, averaging .72 points per game from the back end. Despite missing eight games this year due to injury, Leivermann leads Irish defensemen in points and his next goal will tie his single-season high of six. 

Most importantly, the team’s captain does not shy away from the ambitions of Notre Dame hockey. Acknowledging, with an 11-12-3 record through 26 games, that this year has not gone to plan, Leivermann sees opportunity ahead for this Irish team.

“We have an expectation to win the Big Ten and make a run for the national championship, and that’s still our expectation, even though things aren’t going our way,” Leivermann said. “We still find ourselves in a spot where things are going to work out if we pull together a few wins.”

In that sense, this weekend’s series against Wisconsin takes on an important tone. Time is of the essence for the Irish to start their climb up the standings. Only six games remain in the regular season after this weekend, all of which are against top-15 opponents.

The Irish are currently on the NCAA Tournament bubble. They sit at 15th in the PairWise Rankings, a system that determines which teams qualify for the 16-team tournament. 

What is the energy like in the locker room going into such a critical series?

“Excited,” Bischel said. “I think the room today after practice was, like, the most excited I’ve seen it all year, so yeah, I think the guys are fired up for sure.”

The sense of urgency around the team was best summed up by Janicke.

“It’s time to go… now, it’s playoff hockey.”

The puck drops on a crucial regular season series at Compton Family Ice Arena tonight at 7:35 p.m EST. Game two of the series will follow on Saturday at 6 p.m. EST.

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Notre Dame rallies to 70-47 victory over Florida State

For roughly 15 minutes at Purcell Pavilion Thursday night, it appeared the loss of graduate student guard Dara Mabrey would be a cataclysmic, season-ending blow for an Irish team with Final Four ambitions.

With the home crowd at their back for a matchup with No. 24 Florida State, Notre Dame couldn’t buy a bucket. Over the game’s first 12 minutes, the Irish shot just 2-18 from the field. They mustered up seven points in an opening quarter and change that included a nine-minute scoring drought. 

Simply put, the Irish offense looked lost without their sharp-shooting guard. The spacing that Mabrey usually provided didn’t exist, as the Seminoles settled into a zone defense and dared Notre Dame to beat them from deep. Two early fouls by sophomore Olivia Miles took the Irish’s mercurial floor general off the court. And as Florida State amassed a 22-12 lead in front of a silent Purcell audience, the game teetered on the brink of a Seminole rout.

Just the opposite happened instead. With 4:07 remaining in the second quarter, Irish head coach Niele Ivey made a triple substitution: bringing in Miles, freshman guard KK Bransford and funior forward Kylee Watson to try and find a spark. 

And that spark was found with haste. Graduate student center Lauren Ebo converted a quick layup within 10 seconds of Ivey’s subs entering the game. A pullup jumper by Miles, a layup and two free throws from Bransford and another layup by sophomore guard Sonia Citron soon followed without a Seminole response, capping off a 10-point burst by the Irish that helped Notre Dame enter halftime trailing by just one.

In the second half, the Irish blew the game open. A platoon of Ebo, Bransford and Citron found their scoring stride, helping Notre Dame open up a 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Irish would continue to pour it on in the final frame, eventually winning by 23 points. 

After the game, Ivey gave credit to Ebo, who posted a double-double in her first start of the season for the Irish. 

“I really loved our experience, our size with that lineup… I thought [Ebo] was great,” Ivey said. “She’s solid. Great presence when we get her the ball. I think she does very well, one of the best in the country, at finishing. I feel like I had six starters the entire season, so I think that was easy for her [to enter the lineup].”

Also stepping up in Mabrey’s absence were Notre Dame’s two freshmen: Bransford and early enrollee guard Cassandre Prosper. Bransford ended the game with 15 points on an efficient 6-11 clip. And while Prosper struggled to land her shots, she was an active presence all over the court. She finished with five rebounds (four coming on the offensive end), three steals and a block.

Ivey mentioned Bransford’s growth as a major positive for her squad looking down the back half of their conference schedule.

“She’s worked so hard,” said Ivey. “She’s very mature for a freshman, understanding what she needs to do on and off the court, and she’s growing into playing longer stretches. With the loss of Dara, our guards will have to play longer stretches.”

Notre Dame will now start preparations for a road trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, for their second top-25 matchup of three over the next twelve days. The hosting NC State Wolfpack provided both Ivey’s signature win and most agonizing loss last season — with the Irish notching a major top-five win at home in February and a season-ending Sweet 16 loss in March against the ‘Pack in 2022. The NC State game will tip off at 3 p.m. on Saturday and will be broadcast on ESPN.

Contact J.J. Post at jpost2@nd.edu.

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Up-and-down Irish look to stabilize against Badgers

No matter who they play or what they do, Notre Dame hockey has been unable to escape the seesaw that their 2022-23 season has become. Since Nov. 11, the Irish have played seven two-game series against the same opponent, and they’ve split all seven. It doesn’t matter whether the Irish are playing teams at the top, middle or bottom of the Big Ten standings. It’s been win one, lose one for almost as long as the Irish can remember, a pattern that has prevented them from looking like last year’s near-Frozen Four team for anything more than a brief moment.

There is still time for the Irish to make a big push. They are just seven points back of Penn State and Ohio State, who are tied for second in the Big Ten. And if there is any team that the Irish figure to be able to find consistent success against, it’s their opponent this weekend: the Wisconsin Badgers. Not only are the Irish home, where they’ve been much better than they have on the road, but the Badgers are currently bringing up the Big Ten’s rear.

It’s Wisconsin’s first time at Compton Family Ice Arena since last Mar. 6, when the Irish eliminated them from the Big Ten tournament by taking Game Three of their first-round series by a 4-2 final. Game one of that series should ensure the Irish will not underestimate Wisconsin goaltender Jared Moe anytime soon, though. Moe stopped 49 of 50 Irish shots in a 3-1 Wisconsin victory. Moe has once again been a bright spot for the Badgers, posting a strong .917 save percentage and starting all but four of Wisconsin’s games.

The pressure will likely be on Moe and Irish senior goaltender Ryan Bischel, because neither team is particularly stellar on offense. Expect games more similar to the 2-0 game these teams played on Jan. 6 than the 6-4 one the day after. Neither team averages more than 2.5 goals per game or has a single player with at least ten goals.

The Badgers are no pushover, however. While neither side scores much, Wisconsin’s power play is much better (20.1% vs. 15.5%). The Badgers also outshoot their opponents, a battle the Irish have lost this season — often badly. The Badgers also have some good bloodlines among their top players. Cruz Lucius, the brother of 2021 first-round NHL draft pick Chaz, leads Wisconsin with nine goals and 24 points. Right behind him is Brock Caufield, the brother of Montréal Canadiens sharpshooter Cole.

Cruz himself is an NHL Draft pick, going in round four to Carolina last year. He is one of ten Badgers, including Moe, to have been taken in the draft. Defenseman Corson Cuelemans is the highest among them, going off the board 25th to Columbus in 2021. Cuelemans is tied with Caufield and Mathieu De St. Phalle for second on the team with 14 points. His seven goals make him one of the highest-scoring blue-liners in the Big Ten. Wisconsin certainly lacks depth — no one else on the team has double-digit points. But they will present a challenge for the Irish, especially since Notre Dame has been without star graduate student defenseman Nick Leivermann since Jan. 7.

The Irish enter this weekend as mired in a scoring slump as they have been all season. The Irish have not scored more than two goals (excluding the shootout) in their last four games. The good news is that Notre Dame’s last offensive outburst came against the Badgers, when they scored a season-high six goals on Jan. 7 in Madison. Junior defenseman Drew Bavaro and senior forward Trevor Janicke both tallied two goals and an assist, while senior forward Jesse Lansdell also tallied three points.

There are reasons to think the Irish can push for more offense down the stretch. Janicke and junior forward Ryder Rolston have been picking up their play as of late. Janicke has five points in his last five games, and Rolston is coming off a two-point weekend. Junior forward Landon Slaggert also has two helpers in his last four games, and while this season has been a struggle, it is worth noting Slaggert is scoring on just 4.3% of his shots. That is well below his 12.9% and 15.7% rates from the last two seasons. Some much-needed regression to the mean could be the boost the Irish need.

However, that will not matter if Notre Dame cannot tighten things up in their own zone. The Irish yielded a jaw-dropping 98 shots in their series last weekend at Penn State. For reference, Lindenwood is last in the entire country in shots against per game at 41.8. Notre Dame is not too far behind (or ahead, depending on your perspective), surrendering the fourth most at 35.1. Bischel has been great, but the Irish cannot depend on him for everything.

Expect him to be back in the crease this weekend. The series starts at Compton Family Ice Arena on Friday at 7:30 p.m. It wraps up at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Both games are available to stream on Peacock.

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Irish aim to get back on track against struggling Louisville

On Tuesday night, Notre Dame men’s basketball suffered a narrow road loss against an NC State team that will likely be playing in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish will seek to get a better result Saturday, when they return to Purcell Pavilion to host conference foe Louisville.

The Irish and Cardinals have both struggled through much of the season. Notre Dame enters the game looking to shake off a four-game losing streak that has dropped them to 9-12 (1-9 in the ACC). Louisville, meanwhile, has perhaps disappointed more than any other team in the nation. The Cardinals are just 2-18, the worst record of any major conference team, and are winless in ACC play. Notre Dame will look to ensure they stay that way and gain some momentum before heading into a string of very winnable games against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

For the Irish, it is difficult to attribute their current slump to anything other than late-game execution. The outcome of eight of their ten ACC games has been in question into the final minutes, save for double-digit losses to Miami and North Carolina. Notre Dame has been in nearly every game it has played. But the Irish just have not found the right buttons to press in order to win tight games, a shock for a team with so much veteran talent.

Tuesday’s loss encapsulated how much of the ACC slate has gone for Notre Dame. The Irish played a talented team in a hostile environment, yet were in control for much of the game. When it came down to crunch time, though, they could not get the job done. Each of their four losses since defeating Georgia Tech has told a similar story.

Disappointing results notwithstanding, there have been several positive trends as of late that could provide a boost against Louisville. The first is the return to form of graduate student guard Cormac Ryan. After a brief midseason slump, Ryan has regained his shooting stroke and has been on a tear as of late. After making just eight total three-pointers during a seven-game stretch that spanned most of January, he has connected on eight in the last two games alone. He has shot at a 62% clip from deep in those contests.

When Ryan gets hot, he becomes nearly unstoppable from beyond the arc. The Irish are a different team when he is shooting the ball well. In their best performance of the season to date, an 18-point win against then-No. 20 Michigan State, Ryan made a season-high six threes and scored 23 points.

Also promising for the Irish has been the play of their freshman duo, guard J.J. Starling and forward Ven-Allen Lubin. Both had arguably the best game of their young Notre Dame careers against NC State. Starling has appeared to get more and more comfortable all season and has scored in double figures five times in the last seven games. On Tuesday, he scored 18 points, notably doing much of his work in transition. This was a welcome change for the Irish, who rank near the bottom of the country in fastbreak points. Starling actively looking to run the floor provides a new dimension for a team that has usually looked to slow things down offensively.

With graduate student forward Nate Laszewski in foul trouble, Lubin played 22 minutes, his most since November. In that time, he established a post presence on both ends of the floor. Utilizing uncommon strength and quickness for a freshman, he posted 10 points and two blocks while also playing tough on the glass. Notre Dame is known as an “old” team, and rightfully so, with five graduate students in their seven-man rotation. But Starling and Lubin have been improving all season and are ready to make a big impact down the stretch.

Louisville’s troubles cannot be pinpointed to one single facet of the game. The Cardinals rank dead last in the ACC in both points scored and allowed. Offensively, most of the load has been carried by El Ellis, who leads the team with averages of 17.8 points and 4.7 assists per game. Remarkably, not a single other Cardinal has averaged double-digit points or more than one assist, shedding some light as to why they have struggled. As a team, Louisville has shot just over 32% from three-point range. Given Notre Dame’s difficulties with defending opposing big men around the basket, the Irish will likely pack the paint and dare the Cardinals to beat them from beyond the arc.

Turnovers have also plagued Louisville, who have averaged 16.6 per game, fourth-most in the country. Notre Dame, meanwhile, averages just 9.4 turnovers, fourth-least nationally. Although the Irish did give the ball away 15 times against NC State. The Irish prefer to take their time and work to get the best possible shot off. However, that has seemingly contributed to the team’s late-game woes. When opposing defenses buckle down in the closing stages of the game, Notre Dame has often been forced to hoist difficult shots late in the shot clock.

Against a team that turns the ball over as much as Louisville does, the Irish may benefit from making more of an effort to push the pace. That should provide easier opportunities to get to the rim or kick the ball out to a knockdown shooter.

Notre Dame has been knocking on the door for several games but has not found their moment to break through and start stringing ACC victories together. Saturday’s game represents as good an opportunity as any, and the Irish will look to improve upon their 9-5 home record and make the Cardinals wait a little bit longer for that elusive first conference win.

Notre Dame will host Louisville at Purcell Pavilion on Saturday. The game tips off at noon. The matchup will be available on ESPN2 and Notre Dame Radio Network.