July 19, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: During the month of July, UND.com and Fighting Irish Digital Media are featuring a multimedia series entitled “Irish in the ACC,” giving Notre Dame fans a sneak peek at some of what they can expect in the coming days, weeks and years as a member of the ACC through the eyes of each of the various Fighting Irish sports that will compete in the conference. Today, we take a look at the Notre Dame lacrosse programs, which will add even more power in a conference that, top to bottom, is expected to be unlike any other in Division I history.

by Sean Carroll (Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director) and Russell Dorn (Media Relations Assistant)


To say the ACC is a powerhouse conference for men’s lacrosse would be an understatement. The six teams that comprise the league have totaled nine national championship game appearances in the last six seasons with a current member of the conference winning five of the last six titles.

The six programs have combined to win 24 national championships and at least one team has appeared in the national title game in 40 of the 43 seasons in which it has been held. Syracuse leads with way with 11 titles, while Virginia has five and North Carolina has four. Duke and Maryland both have two titles. Duke and Syracuse squared off for the 2013 national title and the Blue Devils came away with the hardware.

Notre Dame has cemented itself as a factor on the national stage with two national semifinal appearances in the last four seasons, including a title-game showdown with Duke in 2010. The Blue Devils clipped the Irish in overtime, 6-5, to spark what has become one of the hottest rivalries in the sport. Even though they are entering the first season as conference counterparts, the Fighting Irish and Blue Devils might as well have been in the same league since they have met seven times in the last four seasons. Notre Dame is 4-3 in those contests, yet all three Duke victories have come during the postseason. However, Notre Dame’s first NCAA tournament win occurred at Duke, a 12-10 decision in the first round of the 1995 event.

Notre Dame has recorded other noteworthy victories over ACC competition in the postseason. The Irish knocked off Maryland, 7-5, in the quarterfinals of the 2010 NCAA Championship to advance to the national semifinals for the second time in program history. In 2012, Notre Dame captured a 12-10 quarterfinal victory over Virginia to return to Championship Weekend.

The Fighting Irish went 7-4 versus the ACC from 2010-13. Notre Dame had won four straight versus the conference before a 12-11 setback to Duke in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Notre Dame and Duke are the only schools to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship in each of the last four seasons, while the Irish and fellow league member Maryland are the only programs to earn a spot in the 16-team NCAA tournament field in each of the last eight campaigns.

That success is a testament to the job Fighting Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan and his staff have done. Corrigan has been at the helm of the Notre Dame program for the past 25 seasons and he possesses strong ties to the ACC. He is a 1981 graduate of Virginia and was a midfielder on the Cavalier lacrosse team and also spent two seasons (1987-88) as an assistant coach for the program.

Kevin’s father, Gene, was Notre Dame’s athletics director from 1981-87 before spending a decade as the commissioner of the ACC. Gene, a lacrosse player during his undergraduate career at Duke, also spent time as the head coach of the Virginia men’s lacrosse program and later became the school’s athletics director prior to his stint at Notre Dame.

Despite the strong connection to Virginia, the Cavaliers are the only ACC team that has never visited Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish did face Virginia at PPL Park during the quarterfinals of the 2012 NCAA Championship and all six ACC programs will converge on that venue (located in Chester, Pa., just outside of Philadelphia) for the 2014 ACC Championship. North Carolina will look to defend its league-best eighth crown, while Duke has seven ACC championships on its resume, Virginia has six and Maryland has four.

Notre Dame has captured 20 league titles in its 33 seasons as a varsity program. Adding an ACC trophy will not be easy, but the Fighting Irish are no strangers to the high-level competition they will face on a weekly basis in the nation’s toughest conference. The strength of the ACC will no doubt leave the Irish battle tested for continued success in NCAA tournament play.


The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program is arguably going from the frying pan to the fire as it transitions to the ACC. The BIG EAST was filled with elite teams in Syracuse, Loyola and Georgetown, but the Irish will see a step up in competition as the Orange follow them to the ACC with national powers Duke, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia now on the docket for both newcomers.

Last year, four ACC squads made the NCAA quarterfinals, with North Carolina winning its first-ever national championship when it upset previously undefeated Maryland, 13-12, in triple overtime. Counting Notre Dame and Syracuse’s appearances in last season’s 26-team field, that’s six of the eight teams that will be in the league in 2014. Including Syracuse, the ACC had five of the eight quarterfinalists a year ago.

Prior to taking over as Notre Dame women’s lacrosse head coach in 2011, Christine Halfpenny (right) spent time as an assistant coach at Duke, helping the Blue Devils to a pair of appearances in the NCAA national semifinals.

In ACC play, Maryland has been the dominant team since the league began playing women’s lacrosse in 1997. The Terrapins, who will leave for the Big Ten after the 2014 season, have won 10 of the 17 league championships, including five in a row. Virginia is next with five titles and Duke and North Carolina have one each.

The Terrapins are also the standard bearer in NCAA play, having claimed 10 titles in 17 championship game appearances since 1984, including five in a row from 1997-01. Virginia has a pair of titles (1993 and 2004) in eight appearances, and North Carolina has one championship (2013) in two appearances.

Overall, ACC teams have made up 30 of the 62 squads that have played in the national title game since the NCAA began sanctioning the sport in 1982. Five times, the championship has been composed of two ACC foes, including this past season.

Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny should feel right at home in the ACC as she played at current conference member Virginia Tech from 1996-99 and was an assistant coach at her alma mater in 2003 before moving on to Duke for three seasons where she helped the Blue Devils to three NCAA Championship appearances, including two semifinal showings.

Seven ACC student-athletes joined Notre Dame’s Barbara Sullivan on the IWLCA All-America First Team in 2013. Counting Syracuse and Sullivan, 11 of the 16 first teamers were from current ACC schools, while 14 of the 48 total players (on all three All-America teams) recognized were from current ACC institutions.

Six ACC standouts have also claimed the highest individual honor in the sport, the Tewaaraton Trophy. Starting with former Maryland great and current Loyola (Md.) head coach Jen Adams in 2001, ACC student-athletes also won in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Maryland’s Katie Schwarzmann won the last two awards in helping the Terrapins to a pair of national finals appearances.

Notre Dame has had only one run in with an ACC team in the NCAA Championship. In 2009, the Irish topped Vanderbilt in the first round before falling to North Carolina in the quarterfinals on the road, 16-10. The Tar Heels went on to the championship game where they lost to perennial power Northwestern, 21-7.

With the move to the ACC, the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program has firmly planted themselves in the best conference in the country. After one BIG EAST title and eight NCAA appearances since 2002, the Irish eagerly await the next chapter of their young program’s history.

— ND —

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our Irish in the ACC series continues Monday with a look at the Notre Dame women’s basketball program.