Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

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

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Page 54 of 63 AUGUST 2017 55 forward Brianna Turner tore her ACL in the second-round NCAA Tour- nament victory versus Purdue. The Irish had just begun to reach peak form when she was sidelined. The men's team entered the season ranked seventh in the ACC preseason poll, but once again exceeded expec- tations. The Fighting Irish finished the regular season tied for second in the conference and advanced to the ACC Tournament title game before falling to Duke. It marked the sec- ond time in three seasons that Notre Dame played in the ACC Tourna- ment championship contest. Notre Dame finished the season with a 26-10 record, including a 12-6 league ledger. With the back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 2015 and 2016, plus the opening of the new practice facility next year, the men's program has ex- perienced its most exciting three-year run since the calendar flipped to 1980. FIRE ON ICE On the NCAA Tournament bubble most of the year while in its final season in Hockey East, Notre Dame peaked in the final month to become one of the last selections as a No. 4 seed in the 16-team tournament. Once there, Notre Dame came back from a 2-0 deficit March 25 to defeat No. 1 seed Minnesota, 3-2. A day later, the Irish rallied in the third period and then won in overtime by the same score against Hockey East nemesis UMass Lowell to crash the Frozen Four party for the third time in 10 years. There the Irish got overwhelmed 6-1 by No. 1 and eventual national champ Denver in a hockey version of Notre Dame's 42-14 defeat versus Alabama in the BCS National Cham- pionship Game in January 2013. Nevertheless, head coach Jeff Jack—son's program has remained prominent with a 26-man roster that featured only two seniors, 10 juniors, six sophomores and eight freshmen. In the seven-team Big Ten next sea- son, the Irish will be without two of their stalwarts, goaltender Cal Pe- tersen and top scorer Anders Bjork, both of whom signed NHL contracts. LIVING BY THE SWORDS From March 23-26, Notre Dame won the National Collegiate Fencing Championships at the Indiana Farm- ers Coliseum in Indianapolis. Until 1990, the NCAA fencing titles were divided into separate catego- ries for the men and women, with the Fighting Irish men capturing No. 1 in 1977, 1978 and 1986, while the women won it all in 1987. Since the combination the of the two fencing programs, Notre Dame has won the national title in 1994, 2003, 2005, 2011 and this past season. The Fighting Irish fencers scored 186 points during the championship competition, outpacing runner up Ohio State (161 points) and Columbia Barnard (152 points). Notre Dame paced the nation with nine men's and women's All-Ameri- cans, led by senior woman Lee Kiefer who became the third fencer in NCAA annals to win four national titles on the foil and junior Francesca Russo who captured an individual title in sabre. ✦ Top Five Teams 1. Fencing In the past 40 years, or since 1977, Notre Dame athletics has captured 16 national titles. Nine of them have been in fencing, most recently this March with the combined men's and women's championship. Other athletic teams at Notre Dame have had their ebbs and flows over the decades, but fencing epitomizes consistent excellence as a perennial top-five operation. Third-year head coach Gia Kvar- tskhelia became the fourth different boss for the Fighting Irish fencers to win a national championship, joining Mike DeCicco, Yves Auriol and Janusz Bednarski. 2. Women's Basketball (33-4) Speaking of consistent excellence, what does it say when a fourth straight regular season and tourna- ment title in the ACC (and fifth straight conference title overall) is a "letdown?" That's how you make it to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, like head coach Muffet McGraw did this year. The preseason No. 1 Irish lost by a point in the Elite Eight, preventing a sixth Final Four in seven sea- sons. For the second time in four years, Notre Dame lost its star post player — this time junior Brianna Turner — to an ACL injury in the NCAA Tournament. 3. Hockey (23-12-5) Under head coach Jeff Jackson's steady guidance, Notre Dame became the third team to appear in three of the last 10 Frozen Fours. The other two are hockey superpowers North Dakota and Boston College with five apiece. 4. Men's Lacrosse (9-6) Like McGraw in basketball, Kevin Corrigan annually has his teams vying for Final Four honors, al- though this year's 16-4 blowout loss to Denver in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament (after losing by only one goal to the Pioneers during the regular season) was uncharacteristic. Against a tremendous schedule, Notre Dame was 5-3 in one-goal outcomes — and defeated eventual national champ Maryland (5-4) and national runner-up Ohio State (12-7). 5. Women's Cross Country Finishing No. 11 at the NCAA Championships in November was laudable in itself, but this Irish team also placed five student-athletes on the ACC All-Academic team. Fencing won its ninth national title since 1977 while continuing the most consistent run of excellence in the athletics department. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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