Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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50 OCT. 12, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED ND SPORTS BY TODD D. BURLAGE N otre Dame sophomore Maddy Denner found herself in a place about a year ago she never expected to be — and became very uncomfort- able trying to get out of it. For all the wrong reasons, Denner admits in hindsight, this budding Irish cross country star had turned down scholarship offers from Notre Dame and Wisconsin, and prematurely com- mitted to compete for Michigan. Buyer's remorse — or is it runner's remorse? — soon followed. Several months after her commit- ment and with the 2018 fall semester and cross country season set to be- gin, Denner said her heart told her Notre Dame would be a better fit than Michigan, especially because her twin sister, Elena, was already enrolled and ready to run for the Irish. Humble, reserved and, frankly, a bit confused, Maddy stayed conflicted and silent as she wrestled with a decision to stay at Michigan or go to Notre Dame. "It definitely wasn't fun going through that," Maddy Denner said. "Even though I knew [Notre Dame] is where I wanted to be, I waited and waited and waited." In fact, Maddy waited so long, she was enrolled at Michigan for the fall semester of 2018 but never ended up attending classes there, choosing in- stead to take a semester off, regroup back home in El Dorado Hills, Ca- lif., and pursue enrollment at Notre Dame, which is where she landed for the spring semester earlier this year. "I would've loved to have a smoother transition, but I made a de- cision and it was the wrong one," she said. "I had to deal with all of that and I felt bad, but now it is all fine." With regrets behind, Maddy Denner now has her focus on a promising track and cross country career alongside her sister at a school that offers both twins everything they were looking for: elite athletics and unparalleled academics. "We are both so happy to be at the same school," Maddy said. "Being with my sister was really kind of the main factor, I really wanted to be here." Injuries to Elena, and a delayed start in cross country for Maddy, has both runners playing catch up and still wait- ing to compete together at this level. Elena has been out of competition for nearly a year and will likely miss this fall season, while Maddy, the 2018 MileSplitCA Girls Track Athlete of the Year in high school, is looking to build on a solid track debut from the spring when she finished 19th overall for the Irish in the 10,000 meters at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships. The challenge now for the girls, ex- plained Irish head coach Matt Sparks, is to finally compete together and push each other on the cross country course. "The Denner girls kind of like to work from the back and continually move up," Sparks said. "And if there are two of them doing that together, I think they can be a real force to be reckoned with. "Right now, Maddy is having to do that all on her own. I look forward to getting them both out there together to support each other." ✦ Difficult Decision Has Maddy Denner Where She Belongs Denner has been reunited with her twin sister, Elena, in South Bend after initially choosing Michigan in the recruiting process. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA MEN'S GOLF The Irish opened the season with first-place showings at the Badger Invi- tational Sept. 8-10 in Madison, Wis., and at the Windon Memorial Classic Sept. 16-17 in Chicago, plus a third-place effort at the Inverness Intercol- legiate Sept. 23-24 in Toledo, Ohio. Notre Dame hosts the Fighting Irish Classic Oct. 7-8 in South Bend. WOMEN'S GOLF After a 10th-place finish out of 15 teams at the rain-shortened Minnesota Invitational Sept. 9-10 in Woodbury, Minn., Notre Dame came in 14th in the Schooner Fall Classic Sept. 27-29 in Norman, Okla. Next up for the Irish is the Illini Women's Invitational Oct. 7-8 in Chicago. MEN'S SOCCER (5-3-1, 0-3-0 ACC) The Irish dropped out of the national rankings after suffering a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Virginia Sept. 27, but bounced back to edge DePaul 1-0 Oct. 1. The Cavaliers, who entered the contest ranked No. 3 in the nation, converted a penalty kick in the 70th minute for the winning margin in a match that dropped Notre Dame to 0-3 in the ACC. Against the Blue Demons, the Irish scored on a free kick in the final minute to secure the win. Notre Dame travels to face North Carolina State in ACC play Oct. 4, and then will return home for a non-conference affair against Purdue Fort Wayne Oct. 8. WOMEN'S SOCCER (7-4-0, 1-2-0 ACC) Notre Dame registered a 4-0 home win over Pittsburgh Sept. 26, but fell 3-0 at No. 4 North Carolina Sept. 29. Senior goalkeeper Brooke Littman notched her third shutout of the season and freshman forward Kiki Van Zanten tallied a pair of goals to pace the offense versus the Panthers. The Irish play their next three contests at home, starting with Syracuse Oct. 4 and Miami Oct. 10. VOLLEYBALL (9-3, 2-0 ACC) The Irish began ACC action with a pair of 3-0 victories versus North Carolina Sept. 27 and North Carolina State Sept. 29. After 11 matches, Notre Dame led the ACC in digs per set (16.04) and ranked second in total team blocks (124.5). Notre Dame has two more league contests at home — Clemson Oct. 4 and Georgia Tech Oct. 6 — before hitting the road again. — Steve Downey Irish Roundup

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