Sunday, May 30, 2010

Irish Lax Reaches NCAA Title Game for First Time

AP Photo/ Rob Carr

Led by a stifling defense and remarkable goaltending from senior Scott Rodgers the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team is headed to the NCAA championship game for the first time in school history.

Seventh seeded Cornell was the latest in a slew of upset wins by an unseeded Irish team that was thankful to even qualify for the NCAA tournament. Princeton (sixth seeded) and Maryland (third seeded) were the first powerhouses to succumb to the underdog Irish.

Cornell got on the board first early in the first quarter but that was about all that went well for the Big Red as Rodgers netted eight saves in the remainder of the quarter, allowing his teammates to capture a 3-1 lead.

Over the course of the next three periods the Big Red never came closer than a two goal deficit, ultimately losing 12-7 thanks in large part to Rodgers' 16 saves.

As a reward for their semifinal win the Irish, the first unseeded team since Massachusetts in 2006 to reach the final, will face fifth seeded Duke in Monday's national championship game, which can be seen on ESPN at 3:30p EST. See how both teams got here by following this link.

In the 29 years Notre Dame has assembled varsity men's lacrosse teams the Irish had only once before reached the NCAA Final Four. The 2001 Irish team lost to eventual runner-up Syracuse in the national semifinal. This year's bunch, however, would not be denied.

Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame's head coach, said he hopes the win will spark more interest outside of the eastern seaboard where the sport has traditionally thrived.
I feel like we've been knocking on this door. I’m excited that we’re in the championship game and I’m really hoping that if we can win a championship game, I can stop getting questions about lacrosse outside traditional areas.
Junior midfielder Zach Brenneman, who tallied three goals in Saturday's match, shared similar sentiments about spreading the sport's following out west.
Now we’re really putting us on the map. I think it’s great for the sport. It’s a growing sport and it’ll help maybe move the sport out West, which is what I think everyone wants.
After limping into and barely qualifying for the NCAA tournament with a 7-6 regular season record the Irish have made the most of their opportunity in post-season play. One last challenge awaits the Irish tomorrow in the offensive juggernaut Duke Blue Devils.

One can only hope for a repeat of the first game of the season, an 11-7 victory in Durham, NC for the Irish. If it means an Irish title, I'd settle for something a little less comfortable and a single goal differential. Regardless, tomorrow's game will result in a first time national champion as the Blue Devils have failed in their two previous attempts in the title game.

The only number one I'd like to see tomorrow is an Irish title and, accordingly, a lighting of the #1 above Grace Hall at Notre Dame.

Go Irish! Beat Blue Devils!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Irish Lax Reaches Final Four For Second Time In School History

After narrowly making the NCAA tournament on an at large bid the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men's lacrosse team is headed back to the Final Four for only the second time in school history.

Two consecutive weekends with shocking wins propelled the Irish back to the Final Four, where their only prior visit resulted in a 12-5 loss to runner-up Syracuse.

Host Princeton could not contain Notre Dame and junior midfielder David Earl, who netted 5 of the 8 Irish goals in the 8-5 victory on May 16, 2010.

Less than a week later the Irish suited up against Maryland - a team whom the Irish had never beat (0-4) until the May 22, 2010 matchup in Princeton, NJ.

A hot start put the Irish up 5-1 near the middle of the 2nd period. Maryland closed the gap at 5-3 by intermission. Sophomore attackman Sean Rogers capped off a hat trick with 2:00 remaining in the 3rd period to put the Irish up 7-3. The Terrapins notched two more goals but came up short in a 7-5 loss. Video highlights can be found here. A picture gallery from Sports Illustrated can be found here.

From the start it was certainly helpful for the Irish to get out to an early lead. In fact, the Irish are 7-1 this year when leading in games at intermission. Moreover, Notre Dame senior midfielder Trever Sipperly dominated faceoffs (10 out of 15) to set the tone for ball control and continued pressure on the Terrapins' defense.

Last season the Terrapins handed the undefeated (regular season) Irish a first round exit in the tournament. Revenge was sweet this year especially given the at-large bid. Many critics wondered how a 7-6 Irish team deserved a bid over teams like Drexel (10-4), Georgetown (8-5) and Yale (10-3). Nonetheless, the resilient Irish have proved merit of their bid.

Head Coach Kevin Corrigan recognizes how far his team has come throughout the course of the season. After the defeat of the Terrapins he expressed his pride:
To lose six games after going undefeated last year we were very fortunate to even get to play in the (NCAA) tournament. I'm so proud of our guys because we prepared ourselves to be in the tournament. We prepared ourselves for being in the tournament and whether we got in or not wasn't up to us. Working the last month and getting prepared was up to us. I couldn't be more proud of the way the guys did that.
ESPNU broadcast last weekend's game, but calling the production a 'broadcast' might be a stretch. The production was riddled with "technical difficulties" and graphics that PowerPoint and Atari would put to shame. Imagine what TV was like in the 1970's, add in a splash of public access channel and, for kicks, a dash of high school athletics on personal cam corders.

Next week NCAA lacrosse steps up to the big leagues (we can only hope) as they move to ESPN2. Crash Davis, the shrewd catcher from Bull Durham, said it best when he apathetically stated to an opposing hitter: "Charlie, here comes the deuce and when you speak of me speak well."

Find out if the Luck of the Irish will continue as Cornell and Notre Dame will square off at 4pm EST on May 29 on ESPN2.

For a more in depth recap of the Irish defeat over Maryland check out this link from Lacrosse Magazine.

Lay Me Down

Summer is right around the corner which can only mean one thing: it's time for summer music. You see, there are some bands that crank out melodies particularly fitting for the summer months.

To name a few, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Reel Big Fish, Less than Jake, and Sublime fall into the aforementioned 'summer' category.

Sublime, in fact, provided the inspiration for today's song of the day post. The reggae-influenced quartet known as Sublime performed together from 1988 to 1996 when, after a heroin overdose by frontman Bradley Nowell (vocals and guitar), the group immediately parted ways.

In 2009 the three remaining original members of Sublime rejoined forces and teamed with new lead singer and guitarist Rome Ramirez to perform as "Sublime with Rome."

Rome, a bit of a democratic artist opting not to limit his talents with just one group, partnered with fellow reggae rock artist The Dirty Heads for one of the most popular alternative rock singles of 2010.

"Lay Me Down" featuring Rome from Sublime is a single off of The Dirty Heads' 2008 album Any Port in a Storm. Even though it is somewhat striking that two years passed since the album's release to the issue of this single the wait was well worth it.

The song peaked at #1 on Billboard's Alternative Songs list and earned it's keep into this music aficionado's playlist.

So grab yourself a drink, sit on your porch, and go add Dirty Heads to your summer mix. You can thank me later.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ben Folds: Bitches Ain't Shit

I've been on an enormous Ben Folds kick this past week, because I've been spinning his most recent studio release from a couple years back, Way To Normal.

There are some amazing tracks on there which I'll likely post in time, but I wanted to put up the video from his MySpace gig (the first of its kind I'm told) performance of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit".

While I love his voice and sense of melody, perhaps my favorite aspect of Mr. Folds is his lightheartedness. He doesn't take music overly serious, and that's a good thing. He always seems to have a blast when performing and that's a plus for everyone involved.

Props to Dr. Dre though, who's first line rings true throughout the ages:

"Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Virginia Tech Football Highlights

An individual who goes by the online handle VTPhreak4evr has been putting together highlight videos of 130 Virginia Tech football games in 130 days. He's done quite a few already, so I thought I'd select some of them from time to time to ease the wait until college football is back online in the fall.

This 2002 game features a cool piece at the front of the broadcast on quarterback Bryan Randall who was then just beginning his Tech career. Randall would eventually play basketball as well for the Hokies.

The highlights are heavy on "The Untouchables", Tech's stout running combo of Lee Suggs (pictured above) and Kevin Jones.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

West High Lacrosse Gets Wet

The story at Corning's Memorial Stadium Tuesday was hardly the play on the field, it was the torrential downpour that dominated the evening.

Cold temperatures and the wet conditions cast a pall of lethargy over the entire contest.

A sloppy first half ended with the West High Vikings trailing Ithaca just 4-2, but the second half was another story.

A series of defensive lapses compounded by numerous other errors led to an Ithaca outburst, and eventual 15-2 victory.

The game marked senior night for the Vikings, including friend of the blog and resident goofball Jeff Sienkiewicz.

Pictured below, Sienkiewicz (22) walks dejectedly while fellow senior Brian Guilfoyle (7) questions a higher power.

By far the highlight of the evening came postgame when I joined the brothers Sienkiewicz for a thaw-out session at Friendly's.

The general consensus of the evening was as Andy so astutely put it, "Meh, it's Friendly's".

And now for an artsy picture of puddles with cool unedited lighting.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Collegiate Athletics: Not Just About Winning

Photo courtesy Devil Ball Golf, a Yahoo! Sports Blog

There are certain moments that really make you step back and think about what is truly important in life.

Getting beat out by a colleague for a raise for example does not seem so significant when you hear about suicide bombings overseas killing hundreds of innocent civilians. Perhaps the jerk that cut you off in traffic and caused you to be an extra minute later to work than you were already does not have as daunting a negative effect as does an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ruining Louisiana's $2.4 billion seafood industry and decreasing tourism.

Even though it's human nature to "sweat the small stuff" it's about time we stop, take a deep collective breath, and think about what really matters.

Grant Whybark, a sophomore on the golf team at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL, has already embraced this philosophy. Whybark had locked up a spot in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Championship by winning the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Athletic Conference Championship. He was in a playoff with Olivet Nazarene's Seth Doran for individual honors in the conference tournament, whose winner automatically qualifies for a spot in the NAIA Championship.

Having already secured a spot in nationals for his team championship Whybark decided to take matters into his own hands and help ensure Doran, a senior who had never qualified for nationals, could earn a spot.

Below is an excerpt about the remarkable story.
What happened next is the type of stuff movies are made about. Whybark stood over his tee shot on the first playoff hole, looked down the fairway and back at his ball, and hit it 40 yards right of the fairway, out of bounds by a mile. He made double bogey, Doran made par, and Olivet Nazarene had a man in nationals.

What makes it so incredible? Whybark intentionally did it, because he felt Doran had earned a spot in the next round.
Selfless acts like this are why people are so enamored by amateur athletes in particular. It is not often you hear about stories like this from professionals, whose very livelihood depends on winning and losing.

College athletes represent sport in its purest form. Raw emotion, passion, and competitive respect serve as charming reminders that success can be measured not only by wins and losses but also by the lives we touch.

Whymark knew Doran could fulfill a lifelong dream by qualifying for nationals, so why would he be the man to stand in Doran's way having already qualified himself?

It is unlikely either player will play professional golf for a living. Perhaps they will pursue it and I wish them the best in their endeavors but the odds are against them coming from tiny NAIA schools. But to some, there is more to life than being a professional athlete.

After all, as the memorable NCAA ad says "There are 360,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports."

Whymark is already a professional in my mind, though. A professional hero. Kudos to you, sir.

Malcolm Delaney Returns For Senior Season

Virginia Tech junior point guard Malcolm Delaney has decided to withdraw his name from the June NBA draft. Delaney averaged 20.2 PPG for the Hokies en route to first team All-ACC honors this season.

The Hokies look to have a very talented veteran team next season, returning every starter from a group that finished 25-9 (10-6 ACC).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tazing Is So In Right Now

So there are people getting tazed at political rallies, baseball games and just out in the street but I have officially found the greatest police tazing of all time captured on glorious videotape—actually I don't think anyone really uses tape anymore.

I hope everyone gets as much laughter from this as I did. Poor Steve.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Freekbass Is Not ND

WARNING: The following video contains images and sounds unbecoming a Notre Dame alumnus or fan.

The University of Notre Dame released a video on its YouTube channel, NDdotEDU, yesterday for what was initially only intended for viewership at the Outstanding Student-Athletes Celebrating Achievements and Recognition Showcase (O.S.C.A.R.S).

In a statement released on Facebook yesterday from the University's Office of Public Affairs and Communications Julie Hail Flory said the video was released to the public due to its positive response at the O.S.C.A.R.S.
Its primary purpose was to be shown at the O.S.C.A.R.S., an awards event for student-athletes that was held on campus earlier this week, where it received a very positive response. It was shared here and on the ND YouTube channel because we thought other fans might enjoy something a little different.
Indeed, something different was born with the creation of the song "We Are ND" by the band Freekbass and video produced by Ted Mandell, a 1986 Notre Dame alum and faculty member for 22 years in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) at the University.

Within a mere few hours after the video was released online thousands of embarrassed and distraught alumni, fans, and critics offered stark denunciation of the film.

In response to the harsh reaction Mandell issued a statement on the FTT website to explain the meaning behind the video.
It was a grass roots effort to produce. I got some help from Music Dept. faculty member and blues musician Don Savoie. I contacted Freekbass. We’re both Reds fans. We hit it off. Sure, let’s put together a funky song to celebrate the silliness of fans and the passion of ND Athletics.
"Funky" is a bit of a stretch in terms of musical genre associated with "We Are ND." In fact, Freekbass may have unveiled an entirely new genre: Sucky.

Additional clarification from Mandell about the intent of the video production is offered below.
It’s not a recruiting tool. Not a contrived, underground marketing attempt to make ND look hip. Just a fun video shown at a student athlete banquet.

It’s freekin’ Freekbass.

September 4th, I hope the students wear wacky facepaint, and crazy wigs, and dance, and sing, and rock Notre Dame Stadium, and party in the parking lot. And get all ‘70s again.

Because WE ARE ND.
He did get one thing right. We are ND and we are all very proud of what that statement means. Every member of the ND community is brought together as one family.

Where he failed was in his assessment of the passion exerted in support of ND athletics. He underestimated the degree to which ND followers express their acceptance or, in this case, disapproval of something.

One thing he could serve to learn from this ordeal is that not all pro-ND creative expressions will be as well-received as John Scully's "Here Come The Irish" set against the incredible footage below.
Why does Mandell's piece not stack up? It seems as though he already knows the answer even though he has yet to come to terms with it. Because, after all, "It's freekin' Freekbass."


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