May 14, 1999
by Bernie Cafarelli
All the exams have been taken and passed. All the work, endless projects and papers have been completed. This Sunday (May 16), at Notre Dame’s 154th Commencement, members of the Class of 1999 receive their degrees and become official alumni of the University.
Irish attackman Chris Dusseau and his nine senior teammates will miss this year’s commencement exercises because they, along with other members of the ’99 edition of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse, still have at least one more exams. They are involved in a “test” of a different sort as the Irish battle fifth-seeded Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship at Minnegan Stadium in Towson, Md.
|Senior Laurence Galli|
Notre Dame and the Hoyas will play for the second time this season on Sunday, but meet for the first time in the NCAA tournament. Back on April 10 at Moose Krause Stadium, the Irish lost to Georgetown (ranked eighth at the time) 12-8, despite jumping out to a 4-0 lead. It was the third consecutive win for the Hoyas over the Irish, but the Notre Dame co-captain is confident that he and the rest of the squad are prepared for the rematch.
“Georgetown is a good team, and they are very talented,” Dusseau says, “but in going over the film of the game, we really weren’t that far off. We’re going to make some adjustments, but I believe we’re a much improved team from when we played them over a month ago. We have some key people doing things now that they weren’t doing when we first played them.”
Dusseau and the Irish, making their seventh NCAA tournament appearance in eight seasons, and eighth overall since 1990, have made giant strides since the beginning of the campaign. Last season, Notre Dame, a model of consistency in the ’90’s, faltered to a 5-7 record (its first losing season in school history) and missed the NCAAs for the first time since 1991.
The Irish have rebounded this season to post an 8-5 record and earn a top 15 ranking in the final United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Poll. Dusseau credits the turnaround with the unselfishness and hard work of the entire team.
“This has been somewhat of an up-and-down year for us, but we’ve had a lot of guys step up big,” Dusseau says. “We’re still a relatively young team; we’re sophomore dominated, especially on the offensive end. This season has been a lot of fun for us because I’ve seen this team get better and better with each game. The tournament is a reward for everyone’s hard work and the effort that they have put in to helping this team get better.”
Dusseau thinks that this year’s squad, in comparison with other past Notre Dame teams, may not be as talented on paper, however, he believes that this year’s Irish have a tremendous team chemistry that has carried them this season.
“What we’ve lacked in “superstar” quality, we’ve made up in the way we play together as a team,” Dusseau says. “Although we may not be as talented as some of the other teams I’ve been on, we certainly made up for it in the way we play for each other. Everything has fallen into place, and I think we’ve surprised some people this year.”
Last year’s sub-par year provided motivation for this year’s squad. Dusseau and David Biddison, the other Irish captain, talked at the beginning of the season and vowed not to let what happened in 1998 happen again. One of the biggest motivational forces was that they wanted everyone on the team to have a great experience.
|Senior Steve Sepeta|
For Dusseau and the seniors, this will be their third trip to the NCAA tournament. Sunday’s contest holds special significance for those 10 individuals as their careers slowly come to a close. Although he hasn’t thought much about it, the Columbus, Ohio native can’t help but think about the finality of it all when the season eventually comes to an end.
“It is starting to hit me that it is all coming to an end,” Dusseau says. “As a senior, you don’t really want to think about it, but I guess you have to. I really don’t know what I’m going to feel like when it’s all over because lacrosse has been such a huge part of my life for the last four years.”
Dusseau’s accomplishments have been many throughout his career. He has started every game, which spans 50 contests over the past four seasons, and has led the Irish in goals scored each of the past four seasons. His 31 goals in ’99 marks a personal best; currently, he is tied for second with 113 career goals and ranks eighth all-time with 124 points.
The personal statistics hold some significance for Dusseau, but what he takes the most pride in is the fact that he has started every game at Notre Dame during his career.
“I’ve been lucky,” Dusseau admits. “I didn’t have any preconceived notions coming in as to what my role would be or what I was going to accomplish. I’m very proud in what I’ve done on the field and that I’ve started every game here at Notre Dame. I’ve been fortunate; its allowed me to feel that I am a big part of the team.”
|Senior David Biddison|
Sunday’s game also holds special significance for the entire Dusseau family as Chris will once again play against his brother Steve, a freshman midfielder for the Hoyas. The elder Dusseau takes great pride in his brothers accomplishments as the top midfielder coming out of high school a year ago. He, however, downplays any significance of Sunday’s second, and final meeting as foes.
“It’s really not that big of a deal that we are playing against each other again,” Dusseau says. “A lot of people are making more of it than it is, but it’s not the main focus for either one of us. When we talk on the phone, we really don’t talk that much about lacrosse; Steve and I don’t let it dominate our lives.”
The whole Notre Dame lacrosse experience will be one Dusseau will not forget. What stands out most in his mind is the people he has met and the friends he has made. He believes that what this year’s team has accomplished is a testament to the friendships that have been made over the past four years, and to the ones that will endure forever.
“When you talk about a family atmosphere at Notre Dame, nothing can compare to what we’ve been a part of while playing lacrosse here,” Dusseau says. The friends I’ve made and my teammates’ parents are all just outstanding people. We definitely have the most supportive and dedicated parents. It means so much to everyone on the team to have their loyalty.”
It’s the uniqueness of the past four years that will make Saturday’s special graduation ceremony planned in Maryland so appropriate. Chuck Lennon, the executive director of the alumni association, and Reverend Al D’Alonzo, the academic counselor for the men’s lacrosse team, will preside over graduation ceremonies conferring degrees upon Dusseau and his teammates.
“I’m glad its happening this way,” Dusseau, who will receive a bachelor of arts in psychology says. “I think we’re all going to appreciate the whole event a lot more than if we were back at school. We’ll be surrounded by everyone that means the most to us, and it will make the whole day so special.”