April 6, 2015
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Along with the religious significance of Easter Sunday comes an unofficial beginning of spring. As the celebration of Jesus’ arising plays out inside the church, a celebration of rising temperatures and happy emotions occurs outside.
For the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team, it was an afternoon to gather as one at the spacious lakeside Richmond estate of junior Austin Pruitt’s parents. In colorful dresses, the Irish relaxed outside on a sunny 70-degree Sunday, smiling, laughing, hunting for Easter eggs and enjoying quality time with both each other and their family members who joined the team in Virginia.
The women’s lacrosse team is privileged to enjoy a few of these family gatherings annually as Notre Dame’s travels brings it to the hometowns of several team members. Katherine McManus’ mother took the team in following a game at Boston College. Stephanie Peragallo’s parents welcomed the Irish to their home on Long Island before the Stony Brook game.
As spring beckons, the end result of this bonding time is starting to come to fruition. The spirits and energy levels of the Irish has been rising at late, aiding a 4-1 surge over the past five games, including a 14-4 thrashing of No. 4 Virginia on Saturday in Charlottesville – a game that the Irish led 11-0 at one point invoking a historically rare occurrence sprung forth by any visiting side of a running clock at KlÃƒÆ’Â¶ckner Stadium against the Cavaliers.
“We have been talking a lot about how we can celebrate our execution,” head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Not just the goals and saves, but every piece of our game plan – winning the draw, ground balls, using our speed in transition, etc. And when we do that, whether it’s a stick tap, high five, or hug, it becomes contagious. That contagious celebration of our execution truly does show the Spirit of Notre Dame, which in essence is our pursuit of excellence of trying to be number one. For us right now, it is being number one in that given play on that given day.
Although leading 5-0 at halftime and in complete control of the Virginia game, victory was not assured. If the Irish felt any pressure, those fears were visibly assuaged to all in attendance after the team huddle broke with about four minutes to go before play resumed.
The stadium loudspeakers played stadium rock staple “Jump Around” by House of Pain and the Irish literally jumped around while warming back up, as if playing short-toss with each other on trampolines. That loose-minded cohesion translated into three goals in the first five minutes of the second half, extending the Irish lead to 8-0 and extinguishing any hopes that the Hoos harbored of a comeback win coming out of their locker room from halftime.
The warm air of the Commonwealth of Virginia may have been left behind on Monday as the Irish flew north to still-snow-covered Syracuse, New York, but game-time temperatures inside the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night promise to be in the upper 60s as Notre Dame faces No. 7 Syracuse (9-4).
A critical Atlantic Coast Conference battle and an important opportunity for a victory as the 7-5 Irish shoot for their school-record fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth, Notre Dame aspires to keep its spirit-laden spring-time revival rolling like an Easter egg.
“We are staying focused and living in the moment right now,” Halfpenny said. “We are looking for our eighth win of the season. We are looking to get better on April 7th. We’ll keep celebrating every little `win’ and turn those little wins into contagious execution of our game plan on Tuesday night. It’s a special thing to bring the Spirit of Notre Dame to every venue we travel to.”
Notre Dame found itself in a happy place as it left Virginia. Carrying that momentum and buoyant spring-time energy aboard their chartered flight to Syracuse, the Irish aim to keep their current string of success going Tuesday night when they face the Orange in the Carrier Dome.