Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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14 APRIL 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME by Notre Dame in 2013 when he was Rivals' No. 22 defensive tackle nation- ally, and the current Irish defensive in- terior that is short on experience would gladly take him for the 2017 season. "Pagano would completely re- shape the Notre Dame interior next season," Blue & Gold Illustrated foot- ball analyst Bryan Driskell said. "He can play the nose and the three-tech- nique spot in defensive coordinator Mike Elko's system, and he has been more productive than anyone the Irish defense returns next season. "Landing Pagano would also give Notre Dame more versatility with its line … and the ability to be more flexible with how they use not only Pagano, but also Jerry Tillery, Jona- than Bonner and Jay Hayes." — Lou Somogyi TROY PRIDE JR. QUALIFIES IN ACC CHAMPIONSHIPS SPRINT Any questions about who is the fastest player on the 2017 Notre Dame football team were answered at the ACC Indoor Track & Field Champion- ship held at Notre Dame Feb. 24-25. Freshman cornerback Troy Pride Jr. distinguished himself as one of eight qualifiers among 25 contestants in the 60-meter dash. He ran a personal- best 6.77 in his heat to qualify. In the final, he finished eighth among the eight contestants with a 6.83, but for someone who does not train specifi- cally in the sport year-round, it was an outstanding feat, especially as a freshman. For context, the school re- cord is 6.68 by longtime NFL return man Allen Rossum in 1997 as a senior, and 6.60 is considered world class. There was not a 60-meter dash event when Raghib "Rocket" Ismail was running for the Irish, but he still holds the school's 55-meter record with a 6.07 in 1991, also as a senior. As a senior last year at Greer (S.C.) High, Pride won the Class AAA state championships in the 100 meters (10.55), the 200 meters (21.28) and the 400 meters (48.28), and he also ran a leg for the winning 4x100 relay team (42.20). His motivation now was to continue to engage against first-rate competition to improve himself. "I don't really think of it that way," Pride said of not being able to repre- sent himself at his fullest track poten- tial while concentrating on football. "I understand that they're year-round, but I feel like whenever I step on the track I can always win. I've always had that mindset from my mom and my pops. They instilled that in me. "Every time I step on anything I do, I want to win, regardless of the The Notre Dame women's tennis team began the 2017 spring season with 11 victories in its first 12 matches, including four shutouts and a 4-0 start in ACC play. The hot start put the team in prime position to ex- tend its streak of 21 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Jay Louderback. BGI: What have been the biggest keys for the team to get off to the great start it did? Louderback: "I think a lot of it is we've won a lot of close matches here to start the season. Last year, we had so many 4-3 matches. We had nine of our 14 matches in the ACC were 4-3 matches. "Just having gone through that last year, I think made a big difference in helping us this year." BGI: Where does the team stack up as of now compared to your expectations heading into the spring season? Louderback: "We were hoping that we would be able to do what we have been doing. We've competed much better than we expected. That's something that's been good with us being in a lot of tight matches. "All the way down our lineup has competed really well in really every match we've had." BGI: What does the team need to continue doing during the heart of ACC play in order to keep posting wins? Louderback: "The big thing for us is not to worry about what the rankings are, where we are in the conference standings or anything like that. I think that's our big thing and to focus on each opponent we have left. "The ACC is a tough conference, and every confer- ence match you play is going to be a battle." BGI: Is there a player or players that have stepped up and surprised you so far with their play? Louderback: "The ones that have been just un- believable for us have been our seniors. We have three seniors and they are having their best years of their careers. It's really helped especially with the experience. All three have done whatever we've asked them to and they are playing well. "Monica Robinson is playing No. 1 for the first time in her career. … Mary Closs hasn't lost in doubles [as of March 8]. … Jane Fennelly has been in the singles and doubles and when she's been in she's been asked to play anywhere from one to three in doubles for us. They've been good off the court with their leadership, but also on court they've been very, very good and made a big difference in how we've played this year." BGI: What are you hoping to see out of the team the rest of the season? Louderback: "If we can just stay healthy, but that is for everyone. I feel our doubles can get better and I think they are, and our singles have been good. We've won quite a few matches where we lost the double point. "With our doubles getting better, we can start winning some doubles points and our kids will play even looser when they are playing in the singles." — Corey Bodden Five Questions With … WOMEN'S TENNIS COACH JAY LOUDERBACK Louderback took over the Irish program in 1989 and has guided it to 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, including an active streak of 21 straight (1996-2016). PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS Pride clocked a personal-best 6.77 in the 60-yard dash to qualify for the finals in the event at the ACC Track & Field Championships Feb. 24-25 in South Bend. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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