Thursday marked the final day of classes for the fall semester at Notre Dame, which means it’s time to look back at how the Irish fared in the first athletic season of the year.
The Irish men's soccer team celebrates after securing a spot in the Big East finals against No. 6 Georgetown.
The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams both made their fourth trip to the NCAA Championship Meet in five years this November. The men finished in 28th place overall at the end-of-the-year race despite losing All-American runner Jeremy Rae to an injury earlier in the season. The men finished the year third in the Big East and won one race as a team, the National Catholic Invitational in South Bend.
The women’s team had their best finish in nearly a decade, coming in 15th overall with a solid team effort. The top three Irish runners — Rebecca Tracy, Gabby Gonzales and Alexis Aragon, all finished within one second of each other in the final race. The women finished fifth in the Big East this season and also won the National Catholic Invitational
Meet Of The Year: NCAA Great Lakes Regional (Nov. 9)— Both Irish teams finished in the top five (men in fifth, women in third) of their region this season. The Irish women’s team put on its best performance of the year at the race held in Madison, Wisc. All five of the team’s top finishers earned all-region honors. For the men, junior Martin Grady took over in Rae’s absence, claiming ninth place overall.
Player Of The Year: Martin Grady, Jr.
The Irish earned their first No. 1 overall seed in program history to start the NCAA Tournament this season. They charged to the top of the rankings with an undefeated home record and a 13-3-1 regular season record. They also won their first Big East title in nine years.
Notre Dame started the season on a low note, losing two fifth-year seniors to season-ending knee injuries in August. Senior Ryan Finley stepped up to lead the team with 21 goals in 22 games, the second highest total in the country. He picked up help in the scoring column from junior Harrison Shipp, a first team Academic All-America selection, and freshman Patrick Hodan. Finley is one of three finalists for the Hermann Trophy given to the top collegiate soccer play in the country.
Bobby Clark’s best season behind the Notre Dame bench came to a close with a loss to in-state rival Indiana in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame had a first round bye and knocked off Michigan State in their first tournament game.
Game Of The Year: Big East Championship Game (Nov. 11) — Notre Dame came from behind twice against No. 6 Georgetown in a dramatic finish to the conference tournament. Freshman Nick Besler tied the game in the 89th minute of regulation and Finley clinched it with a score in the second overtime period.
Player Of The Year: Ryan Finley, Sr.
A roster full of freshman jelled late in the season for Notre Dame (16-6-2) to make a somewhat unexpected deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish had 12 rookies on the team this season and lost three of their first seven games of the season as a result.
Newcomers like freshman Crystal Thomas and Cari Roccaro eventually found their groove and ended up first and third on the Irish scoring list this season. Classmate Elyse Hight beat out three other goalkeepers to win the starting job and freshman Katie Naughton held down the middle of the Notre Dame defense. They helped the team win nine of its last 11 regular season games and upset Wake Forest and Florida on its way to the NCAA quarterfinals. The Irish eventually lost to Florida State, 1-0, in Tallahassee to end their year.
Game Of The Year: Vs. Cincinnati at home (Sept. 16) — Seven different players scored a goal for Notre Dame in a 7-0 rout of the BearCats. Junior captain Mandy Laddish led with way with three shots on net from her midfield position. The win sparked a long winning streak for the Irish that built confidence and chemistry on the young team.
Player Of The Year: Mandy Laddish, Jr.
Notre Dame’s season ended with an opening round loss to No. 14 Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament last week. The Irish earned an at large bid after a 20-10 season that ended in four straight losses.
Notre Dame came into the final weekend of the regular season with a chance to wrap up a Big East title, but fell short in a 3-0 loss to Marquette on the road. The loss snapped an 11-game winning streak for the Irish, who were then knocked out of the postseason conference tournament in the first round by South Florida.
The heart of this year’s team was its sophomore class led by outside hitters Toni Alugbue and Jeni Houser. Alugbue and Houser finished first and second on the team in kills and kills per set. Both were named to the AVCA All-Northeast Region team earlier this week.
Match Of The Year: At Marquette (Nov. 11) — The Golden Eagles swept Notre Dame in a game that sent its season on a downward slope. The Irish came in looking to avenge a loss to Marquette earlier in the season but were never able to establish themselves. From there, they lost three more matches to close out the season.
Player Of The Year: Toni Alugbue, Soph.
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