Feb. 20, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Intensity in 10 cities.
The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team’s ultimate goal of a national championship remains consistent. The figurative path to the top always requires intensity, but the literal path to the top is longer in 2015 than most years. This year’s Irish will look to demonstrate their intensity in 10 cities.
The Irish will travel to nine cities during the regular season. Notre Dame is scheduled to play in: Cincinnati, Ohio, Stanford, California, Berkeley, California, Durham, North Carolina, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Stony Brook, New York, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Charlottesville, Virginia and Syracuse, New York with a return to Charlottesville in April for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Bringing an intense effort in those nine cities will propel the Irish headlong towards an opportunity to bring that same intensity to a 10th city…Chester, Pennsylvania, site of the NCAA semifinals and final, Memorial Day weekend at PPL Park.
“If we don’t play well on the road, we’re not going to achieve what we want to achieve,” senior Caitlin Gargan said. “We have to go on the road so much. A lot of important games are on the road this year. Performing, especially within conference, is something that we have to do. If that has to happen on the road, that’s where we’ll do it.”
Cincinnati served as the first of the 10 cities and the Irish conquered that obstacle. The Irish packed their “fast, aggressive and passionate” brand of lacrosse onto a bus for four hours and opened their 2015 season last Friday afternoon with a 14-5 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats.
The second city on this tour is a long way from Notre Dame’s base in the shadow of the second city. A 1,846-mile flight from O’Hare Airport to San Francisco, Stanford has called the Irish. After a long Wednesday evening sojourn to the west coast and a Thursday afternoon practice session on “the farm,” Notre Dame will look for a measure of revenge on Friday night when it faces No. 19 Stanford. The Cardinal went on the road and beat the Irish, 11-10, last year at Arlotta Stadium.
Stanford came to Notre Dame last March and claimed a win while wearing long sleeves and leggings on a frosty day on a freshly-plowed field surrounded by snow banks. The forecast for Friday at Stanford is 72 degrees and mostly sunny. The surroundings diverge, but the mission remains the same, focusing on the action itself to claim victory.
“Character comes into play because you never know what you’re going to get,” senior captain Leah Gallagher said. “The last away game at Cincinnati was freezing temperature. We were playing in the shade of a big building in a big city. Going from there into Loftus (on Sunday) and then out to Stanford, a more pleasurable environment, you have to be ready for whatever is going to be thrown at you on that day.
“Whether the right music is available, whether the ideal pregame meal is available, you have to be flexible. You have to be able to take something that might not have been your ideal and turn it into a way that you can motivate yourself for the game. Cincinnati wasn’t ideal conditions for most of us but we found a way to convert the energy and get it going for our team.”
Separation from those creature comforts of home are part of what tests the road team; sleeping in an unfamiliar bed; finding a decent meal in a small airport; trying to nap on a bouncy bus while immersed among teammates singing, watching movies and Snapchatting each other; cramming into an undersized locker room with cold showers; finally getting familiar with your settings only to pack it all up after the 60 minute game and find a comfort zone all over again in the next city. The arduous process repeats. The best teams block it out, overcome it, and play with the level of intensity requisite of a champion.
Senior captain Shauna Pugliese has logged more than her fair share of miles competing for Notre Dame and slept on more busses than she can count coming home late on Sunday nights from Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway airports after strenuous competitions.
“Playing on the road is a time for us all to be out of our comfort zones,” Pugliese said. “Playing at home is always fun and exciting and we have our home crowd in our little zone, but being on the road is a chance for us to excel in different conditions. To go all the way, we have to be able to succeed on the road. It’s also time for bonding. Time to spend time together. Hopefully Cincinnati was the first step towards a season with a lot of on the road success.”
The 10-city intensity tour continues Friday night at Stanford. From there, the Irish head just a short distance northeast to Berkeley for a Sunday matchup with the Golden Bears of Cal. Next weekend the road takes Notre Dame to Duke for its ACC opener against the Blue Devil team which eliminated it from the 2014 NCAAs. The week after, two weeks removed from the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Notre Dame will be on the Atlantic Ocean’s shores at Boston College.
Along this unavoidable trail the Irish will encounter foul weather and foul-mouthed fans. There will be meals that don’t meet the standards of home and inevitably an uncomfortable bus whose unreliable wifi hinders the tireless Irish student-athletes trying to complete class assignments.
Only an intense resolve to shun these traveling tribulations will get Notre Dame where it ultimately wants to travel to – that 10th city and a trip to suburban Philadelphia in late May.