March 18, 2009
By Dan Masterton
Notre Dame Sports Information
Freshman Kate Newall never thought she would end up playing lacrosse in America.
She was one of the up-and-coming players in England women’s lacrosse, playing for England’s national team and likely to star for a team at one of the premier universities in her home country.
Now she is the first player from England to play women’s lacrosse for the Fighting Irish.
What changed her mind? Notre Dame women’s lacrosse coach Tracy Coyne saw her play and decided to recruit her.
“Tracy and the team came over to play in England two summers ago. I hadn’t really thought of going over to America to play. I was always going to go English university,” Newall said. “Then, Tracy, at the end of the game, was looking for people to recruit.”
Coyne approached Newall then and later pursued her again during World Cup play.
“She came to watch me play in the World Cup, which I played in late last summer in Canada, but I didn’t realize she was there,” Newall said. “They contacted me afterwards and said, `Would you ever be interested in coming over to play?'”
Newall had toured in America with her national team a few times before, but she had never considered coming to America to play lacrosse and attend college.
When Coyne invited the 5-5 midfielder to play at Notre Dame, Newall said, “Um, yeah! I just went along with all the paperwork and spoke to her. Then when I came over for an official visit, I thought, `Wow, it’s so different being at this university.'”
Newall also had preliminary contact with the University of Delaware, but she only officially visited Notre Dame. As the consummate student-athlete, her decision to come to South Bend was about more than sports.
“[Notre Dame is] a really renowned place all around the world, and academics were important for me, as well,” she said.
The strong program and Notre Dame’s commitment to women’s lacrosse didn’t hurt either.
“Coming over here, the facilities were amazing; the team was absolutely amazing–that was a really big factor for me because this is really high-class lacrosse,” Newall said.
She said that the game itself is a little different in the United States, but she is adjusting. “It’s a lot more fast-paced, and there’s more quick ball movement. It’s more physical with way better stick work. You have to be a lot quicker with the ball,” Newall said about American women’s lacrosse.
Newall attributed these differences to the higher levels of talent on American collegiate teams. She is enjoying the opportunity to play the game at such a competitive level.
“There, some people play on teams that aren’t that great, and there’s such a big difference between the bottom player and the top player. It’s more laid back in practice,” Newall said.
“In America, it’s a lot more competition. You’re always fighting for that place. That makes it a lot more fun, if you’re always competing.”
The difference between playing in America and playing at home in England became clearer to Newall when she returned home to England recently.
“When I went back to England to visit some friends who play at one of the top English sports universities over there, I was thinking about going there, and I was comparing them,” Newall said. “I thought, `This is a joke.’ It’s just a completely different level.”
She has no reservations about coming to the United States. She added, “I couldn’t picture myself in England now.”
Outside of adapting to the pace and precision of collegiate lacrosse in America, No. 16 has made the transition to American life relatively smoothly.
“It’s been good. It was hard at the beginning, I guess, to transition from England to here; it’s very different, but it’s been good and easier than I expected,” Newall said.
Newall did not feel burdened by heavy pressure as the first player from England to play women’s lacrosse at Notre Dame, but teammates have enjoyed having a new voice in the huddle.
“I wouldn’t say I feel any pressure. It’s funny listening to people imitate my accent,” Newall said.
“It’s different. It’s pretty hard because I have to adapt to this style of play, which was hard in the beginning, but I didn’t feel like there was any added pressure.”
Even if her teammates have some fun with her, they have been a source of stability and support for Newall as she continues to assimilate to her new surroundings and new team.
“The team’s been amazing, right from the very beginning. It’s like having a family,” Newall said. “As soon as I got here, it’s like I already had 23 friends. It’s cool coming here and having so many people that I already know.”
In addition to playing for the Irish, Newall plays for England’s national women’s lacrosse team. She does not know how long she will continue playing for her country, but she is sure that the time she has spent playing for England so far was well worth it.
“I went on tour recently, and it is a lot different, especially going back into it from being out here [at Notre Dame], Newall said. “[The national team is] always training together.”
“I played in the World Cup, and we won a bronze medal. That was one of the best times in my lacrosse career. It was amazing,” Newall said.
Right now, Newall is focused on her newest team. The freshman defender/midfielder got her first career start with the Irish on March 17 in the 18-9 Irish victory over Rutgers.
“This year, I just want to get as much playing time as I can. I support the team all the way; I think the team this year is just amazing. I want to practice hard and push the people that are starting to make sure they get the right kind of practice,” Newall said.
Regardless of statistics and records, the desire to compete and improve won’t be extinguished in Newall.
On a cold, crisp Wednesday evening as the team practiced outside in preparation for an outdoor game that weekend, Newall was going hard through the end of practice and raced off the practice field ahead of her teammates to be the first one inside for weight training.
“Over the next four years, same thing, I need to just keep pushing my way through and practicing hard–do whatever I can for the team,” Newall said.
It is this love of the game, competition, and team success that likely caught the eye of Coyne in that first meeting in England.
Now the freshman from Middlesex, England has moved across the pond and traded in the white and red cross of the English side for the blue and gold of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.