May 27, 1999
by Eric Wachter
If there is one player who will be remembered as one of the first impact players from the early days of the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program, senior Kerry Callahan will be that memory. From a former club player as a freshman at Notre Dame to a two-time captain as a junior and senior, Callahan helped build a program on the verge of national prominence.
“The way Kerry impacted the program was above our expectations,” says Irish head coach Tracy Coyne. “What she accomplished in a short amount of time by walking on to the team is remarkable.”
“In the last three years, I thought after every year we made such progress,” says Callahan. “The next season or the year after will be a real breakthrough and Notre Dame will start beating the top teams. I’d like to think that [the club members] will have helped them make that jump, that we’ll leave having made contributions for the future.”
Callahan capped off her career at Notre Dame by becoming the first women’s lacrosse player to win the Bryon V. Kanaley Award, the most prestigious honor presented by the University to its senior monogram athletes. They have been presented since 1927 to student-athletes who have been exemplary as students and leaders. Selected by the Faculty Board on Athletics, the awards are named in honor of a 1904 Notre Dame graduate who played baseball for the Irish before a successful banking career.
“I was really shocked to win the Kanaley Award because when I was a sophomore and even when I was a junior, I was always very impressed by the winners,” says Callahan. “I had never really considered myself in their class in terms of athletic achievement. I was really flattered to win and it’s a great honor.”
Callahan also has been honored as a GTE/CoSIDA Academic all-district selection for the second consecutive year and now is eligible to become the first Academic All-American in Notre Dame women’s lacrosse history. Callahan, who has applied to a number of law schools, has been nominated for an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
The Churchville, Pa., native, starred in field hockey, basketball and lacrosse at Gwynedd Mercy Academy and had offers to play lacrosse and field hockey in college. Callahan fell in love with Notre Dame when she visited her cousin Colleen Meehan, a member of Notre Dame’s class of 1995, and decided to pass up collegiate varsity sports to attend Notre Dame.
“It was interesting coming in as a freshman because I liked playing sports in high school and not playing was the only drawback to Notre Dame, but it was definitely worth it,” says Callahan, who also worked as a student assistant in the Notre Dame Sports Information Office during the off-season.
She began her career at Notre Dame in the fall of 1995 as just another freshman in Lyons Hall. Her athleticism quickly stood out as she led Lyons to the campus interhall flag football championship in both her freshman and sophomore seasons. Callahan also starred on the women’s lacrosse club team as a freshman before the team was elevated to varsity status beginning with her sophomore season.
“Freshman year was great because I made a lot of friends in Lyons and we had a great time together winning the interhall championships. Lacrosse was not the same as high school because the intensity wasn’t there but we had so much camaraderie.”
When Callahan returned to Notre Dame as a sophomore in 1996, Tracy Coyne awaited as head coach of Notre Dame’s first-year varsity women’s lacrosse team. As the club members made the transition to varsity, Callahan helped lead the way as the second leading scorer on the team with 18 goals and 11 assists for 29 points. She started all nine games and scored in all but one game as the Irish went 5-4 in their first season.
“The first year was completely new because we were learning so much about skills and about the game,” says Callahan. “The club team was so relaxed and we forgot a lot about the game because we didn’t have a coach. We hadn’t competed on the same level so the first varsity year we were just getting our feet wet.”
While the second Irish women’s lacrosse team went through some growing pains as the former club members meshed with the first recruiting class, Callahan captained the Irish to another winning season with a 7-6 mark. Four of the top five scorers came from the freshman class but it was Callahan on top of the scoring list with 30 goals and 20 assists for 50 points. She scored in every game, including a season-high five goals against Stanford.
Callahan’s efforts began to be noticed following her junior season. She was selected to play for the Midwest team in the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse Association national tournament in the summer of 1998 and was named the MVP of the team. The Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association had a spot for Callahan on its All-Academic team.
“Junior year we became much more talented with the freshmen that came in,” says Callahan. “We started to have more fun and learn more advanced skills.”
In her final season at Notre Dame, Callahan became the program’s first single captain as the Irish finished 9-6 against a toughened schedule for their third straight winning season. For the second consecutive season, Callahan scored at least one goal in every game and ended her career with a 29-game scoring streak with goals in 36 of 37 games in the three years.
“This year Meg Schmitt and I were the only two left from the club team and the talent level and commitment were so much greater with the two classes,” says Callahan. “We played some really good teams and were actually competing with them instead of getting blown out.”
“We definitely recognized her athleticism as a sophomore,” says Coyne. “When she was in high school, Kerry never thought she would focus on lacrosse in college. Once she was in the varsity program here, her combination of the athletic ability and refined skills opened everything up for her. She became a go-to player for us and someone who’ll always be a special member of the program.”