2003 Year in review
Observer Staff Report
The Notre Dame mens lacrosse team had lofty expectations, but for the second straight year, those expectations fell short.
The Irish (9-5, 4-1 GWLL) began the season with three straight wins over ranked teams, but losses in the most important games ousted them from the top spot in the conference and from playoff contention.
The Irish offense put little and inconsistent pressure on No. 4 Maryland in the season finale. The Terrapins kept the ball in the Irish defensive zone for the majority of the game. The 10-4 loss put Notre Dame out of reach for an at-large bid to the 16-team NCAA tournament.
The mid-season loss to Ohio State was the backbreaker. With Ohio State losing just one league game to Denver, Notre Dame had no chance of regaining first place and an automatic bid. The Irish did not impress the selection committee despite winning four of their final five games and losing just two games at home.
Notre Dame played eight ranked teams this season and defeated three — No. 12 Loyola, No. 16 Penn and No. 23 Penn State.
Freshman Pat Walsh emerged as the top point man for the Irish this season with 20 goals and a team high 32 assists. He earned first-team all-GWLL honors and was named GWLL Newcomer of the Year.
With four games to go in the season, the womens lacrosse team was a frustrating 4-7, with all seven of their losses coming to ranked teams. Four wins later, the Irish ended their season on a high note by earning a winning record by beating No. 15 Vanderbilt 22-15, tying a school record for goals in a road game in the process.
The attack was led by senior Danielle Shearer, who eclipsed the Notre Dame records for career goals and career points. Shearer broke both records on Senior Day against Rutgers in 13-6 win. She had seven points in the win, including five first-half goals. Shearer, along with junior Meredith Simon, were named first-team All Big East, while junior Abby Owen and seniors Kelly McCardell and Jen White were named to the second team.
The Irish finished alone in third in the Big East, behind top ten teams Georgetown and Syracuse. Ranked in the top 10 in the preseason, the Irish were looking to dethrone the Hoyas. Although they fell a little short, they continued to build and will look to reach the top of the Big East in 2004.
For the Irish, the spring season started off much the same way that the spring semester did in South Bend — dismally.
Yet as the Irish reached the conclusion of the season, and as they rose up from their multiple trials, the team that had begun the season with the worst start in program history was on the verge of reaching their 13th consecutive NCAA Championships.
Unfortunately, their quest to redeem the season in that manner ended in the same way their season began — with a thunderstorm. Yet the latter thunderstorm that cancelled the Big East Championships was real, not figurative like the first, and it washed away the hopes of a team that used to be shoe-in into the national championships.
Notre Dame began the season 0-4, including two 6-1 losses to Ohio State and Illinois. After that disheartening start, the young team began to improve its confidence and garner some more wins. Victory still did not come easy though — perhaps with the exception of the 6-1 Irish victory over Virginia Tech.
Notre Dame suffered numerous and frustrating losses against teams such as Duke, Florida State and Northwestern.
The Saint Mary's tennis team proved they still had what it takes to be champions in the 2002-03 season.
After dropping two conference dual matches for the first time in two years, the Belles ended the season with a first-place finish at the MIAA tournament.
The conference champions for the Belles included freshman Kristen Palombo at No. 2 singles, junior co-captain Kaitlin Cutler at No. 3, and junior Kris Spriggle at No. 4. The Belles also dominated the doubles competition. At the No. 2 spot, Cutler and senior co-captain Elisa Ryan won a conference championship, as did Spriggle and freshman Lindsay Cook at No. 3 doubles.
Saint Mary's (5-2 MIAA) was tied for second with Kalamazoo after the dual match season. The Belles finished second overall in the MIAA behind Albion, who went undefeated (7-0) in the regular season.
For the season the Belles posted an impressive 13-5 overall record. Several Belles were honored with awards at the conference meet. No. 1 singles player Jeannie Knish was named to the All-MIAA first team. Cutler and Palombo were both All-MIAA second team selections. Ryan was given the Sue Little Sportsmanship Award, becoming the only third winner from Saint Mary's in the award's 48-year history.
It proved another disappointing season for the mens golf team in the spring of 2003. The Irish were unable to post a higher finish than eighth in the regular season. The chance for redemption came at the Big East Championships, hosted by Notre Dame at the Warren Golf Course, but the Irish fell just short of victory and an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships.
Notre Dame held a four-stroke lead over Virginia Tech heading into the final day of competition in the Big East Tournament, but the Irish were unable to hold off the Hokies, falling to second two strokes behind.
Freshman Scott Gustafson gave a stellar performance for the Irish, finishing tied for second at 221 strokes for the 54-hole tournament. Gustafson was the leader after the first day of competition, but could not hold the lead as he fell 12 strokes behind champion Brandon De Jonge of Virginia Tech.
Rounding out the scores for the Irish were senior Brandon Lunke, tied for fourth place at 222 strokes, freshman Mark Baldwin in sixth with 224 strokes, freshman Tommy Balderston in 7th at 226 strokes and freshman Eric Deutsch tied for 11th with 230 strokes.
The highest finish for the Irish during the spring, not including the Big East Tournament, was a pair of eighth place results at the Big Red Classic in Ocala, Fla., and the Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Classic in East Lansing, Mich.
Gustafson had the best scoring average for the Irish during the year at 74.88 strokes. The best round of the season was a three-under 69 posted by Deutsch.
ND Womens Golf
In her second season, womens golf coach Debby King was looking to see improvement in her program as she hopes to build Notre Dame into a strong golf school. While some tournaments were better than others this year, the Irish can look to their win at the inaugural Big East Womens Golf Championship to see that they are headed in the right direction.
Led by freshman Katie Brophy, who tied for medalist honors, the Irish cruised to a 44-stroke victory over top-seeded Miami. The Irish took advantage of windy and cold weather conditions on their home course to run away from Miami and the other teams in the field during the first two rounds.
The Big East Championship was the second tournament win for the Irish on the year, and the second event where Brophy earned the individual win. The Irish team won the Notre Dame Invitational in the fall, earning the title at their home tournament for the second time in three years.
Brophy, meanwhile, won the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational in Florida in March for her first college tournament title. After struggling some with adapting to college golf in the fall, Brophy raised her game to another level in the spring, leading the Irish in scoring average for the year in addition to winning the two events.
The Irish should continue to improve. In addition to Brophy, three other freshmen played well for the Irish as Sarah Bassett, Lauren Gebauer and Suzie Hayes all had strong performances. Junior Shannon Byrne led the returning contingent of Irish players, as she continued her streak of playing in every tournament throughout her first three years, and finished third individually at the Big East Championship. Senior Terri Taibl, junior Rebecca Rogers and sophomore Karen Lotta also made major contributions for the Irish.
Teams often feel comfortable at home. They must define themselves and realize their potential in non-conference games and road match-ups.
The Saint Mary's softball team proved it could win on the road at the start of the season but could not get the job done at home.
Despite the addition of optimistic first-year coach Anna Welsh, the Belles could not maintain their winning ways of the early season.
The Belles dove from third place to sixth place in the MIAA by losing its final seven games and nine of its last ten. The Belles (15-17-1, 4-8 MIAA) finished above only Adrian (12-22-0, 4-9) and Kalamazoo (6-25-0, 1-13).
Saint Mary's fell apart after jumping out to an 8-2-1 record during a four-day road trip to Fort Myers, Fla. The Belles outscored opponents 65-24. The Belles returned home and split a doubleheader with Bethel College to move to 9-3-1. Still, a late season debacle eliminated any hope of postseason play for a team that struggled to find a rhythm, especially on offense.
Alma's Melissa Tavidian pitched her second no-hitter of the season versus a struggling Saint Mary's team that was outscored by opponents 55-14 in its final seven games.
Saint Mary's defeated Kalamazoo 5-1 and 2-1 on April 2 and the season went downhill from that point on. While the Belles managed to split with Albion, Hope and St. Mary's of the Woods, Saint Mary's lost doubleheaders to Adrian, Marian, Calvin and Alma.
The Notre Dame mens swimming and diving team got a step closer to the top of the heap during the 2002-03 season. The Irish posted a fourth-place finish at the Big East Championships and were 6-8 in dual meets. Notre Dame won the Notre Dame Invitational, beating out a field of 10 teams.
Sophomore Frank Krakowski set new marks in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly. Freshman Jamie Lutkus broke the old record in the 400 IM with his second-place finish at Big East (3:54.38). Matt Obringer set a new 200 free record, and senior Jason Fitzpatrick did the same in the 100 breaststroke.
The Irish concluded the year with a team banquet. Obringer was named team MVP. Three swimmers were named Most Improved: Krakowski, Bauman and freshman Patrick Davis. Senior diver Andy Maggio was honored with the Knute Rockne Scholar-Athlete award for his athletic and academic accomplishments.
ND Womens Swimming
At this point, Bailey Weathers and his swimmers will not accept anything but the best. This season they again matched their expectations.
Led by juniors Danielle Hulick and Lisa Garcia and a slew of other top performers, the women captured their seventh consecutive Big East championship in Uniondale, N.Y.
Notre Dame finished with 730 team points. Rutgers followed in second with 580 and Miami placed third with 469.
Notre Dame (9-1-1) led second-place Rutgers at the Nassau Aquatic Center, 501-428, after two days of competition. A few words of encouragement from Weathers later, the Irish had themselves another title.
Notre Dame had 16 swimmers score on the final day, capped off by a victory in the 400 freestyle relay — the evening's last event — by the team of Katie Eckholt, Courtney Choura, Heidi Hendrick and Hulick in 3:21.18.
Garcia, who holds the Notre Dame record in the 200 butterfly of 1:59.28, won the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:01.02. She also won the 200 IM.
Freshman Christel Bouvron (54.57) and Lisa Garcia (54.90) finished second and third in the 100 butterfly.
Hulick (55.56), Kristen Peterson (56.13), Kara Santelli (56.34) and Sarah Alwen (56.73) finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 100 backstroke.
The Saint Mary's swimming team struggled to finish consistency throughout their regular season, ending the year at 3-4 and 2-4 in the MIAA.
The Belles opened the season by taking fifth out of six teams at the Notre Dame relays. The team was led by junior Meghan Ramsey, who nearly made it to the national meet and broke the school record in the 100-meter butterfly. She was the most consistent swimmer for Saint Mary's throughout its season.
Fellow Belle Kelly Nelis also broke a school record in the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 1minute, 59.21 seconds. Three other Belle relay teams broke school records throughout the 2002-03 campaign.
All Sports Stories for Friday, July 11, 2003