Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 59 of 67

60 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TODD D. BURLAGE F rom recent coaching staff shakeups in cross country and volleyball, to one of the best women's soccer seasons in re- cent program history, the 2022 fall sports season at Notre Dame provided plenty of intrigue and a mixed bag of results. Heavy turnover with athletes put the men's cross country program in a rebuild- ing mode, but it still managed a 15th-place national finish. On the women's cross country side, Notre Dame gave eventual national champion North Carolina State a good scare at the ACC Championship en route to a runner-up finish, falling by only four points to the Wolfpack. Volleyball was also in rebuilding mode and finished 10-18 in 2022, a good start- ing point this season for second-year head coach Salima Rockwell. Women's soccer spent most of its 2022 season at or near the top of the national rankings but had a premature ending to its season in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship. And finally, men's soccer slipped some and finished 8-7-2 but returns much of its production in 2023 and sets up well for a bounce-back season. Following is a look at what to watch for from the five Fighting Irish Olympic fall sports programs. MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY Season Opener: Winrow Valparaiso Invite Sept. 1 at Valparaiso, Ind. ACC Predicted Finish: First or sec- ond; Notre Dame has claimed three of the last five ACC titles and expects to do the same this season. NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Top- five finish. Coach's Expectations: After serv- ing the last five years as Notre Dame di- rector of track and field and cross coun- try, Matt Sparks knows a good team when he has one, and he believes this year's group could make a legitimate run at an ACC title and maybe even a national championship. Some coaching turnover and a young team dropped the Irish to a fourth-place finish in the ACC Championship last sea- son and a 15th-place finish in the NCAA Championship, not the results Fighting Irish cross country is accustomed to. But with a loaded 2022 recruiting class a year older and wiser as sopho- mores, a couple of proven veterans back and a strong group of graduate transfers entering the fold, Sparks is expecting a magical season from his group. "The exciting thing is that we could already see the success coming with the younger guys," Sparks said. "Yet, we've helped them along by bringing in some grad transfers. And that keeps us mov- ing in the right direction." Top Runner: Senior Carter Solomon returns after winning the ACC individ- ual title and finishing 18th to earn All- America honors at the NCAA Champi- onship last season. Athlete To Watch: Sophomore Ethan Coleman, who redshirted in cross coun- try in 2022, returns after a terrific track season that included a runner-up finish in the 5,000 meters at the 2023 ACC In- door Championships in February. Don't Miss: Per usual, Sparks will coach his team to peak late in the season with an eye toward reclaiming the ACC this fall after the fourth-place hiccup last year. This year's league champi- onship meet will take place Oct. 28 in Charlottesville, Va. WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY Season Opener: Winrow Valparaiso Invite Sept. 1 at Valparaiso, Ind. ACC Predicted Finish: Top two; perennial power and reigning national champion North Carolina State is loaded again and will be hard to beat. NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Top- five finish. Coach's Expectations: Matt Sparks also oversees the Notre Dame women's program and he's equally excited about this team. The Fighting Irish gained some con- fidence at the 2022 ACC Championship when they narrowly missed knocking off North Carolina State, falling to the Wolf- pack 34-38 in a race Notre Dame led in the points battle until the closing meters. Sparks admitted that the near upset of the eventual national champions took a toll on his team heading into the NCAA Championship, though they still managed a solid seventh-place finish. "You know if you're a little bit dis- appointed in a seventh-place finish," Sparks said in hindsight, "then I think we are a program that's in a good place." Top Runner: Graduate student Ol- ivia Markezich returns as the anchor of the women's program. Markezich fin- ished third at the ACC Championship and was eighth at the NCAA Champi- onship last season. Athlete To Watch: Olivia's twin sister Andrea Markezich earned her degree and enjoyed a fine cross country career at the University of Washington before trans- ferring to Notre Dame for this season. Don't Miss: Given Sparks' "peak when it matters most" approach to coaching, all roads lead to the NCAA Champion- ship Nov. 18 in Charlottesville, Va., where Notre Dame will try to claim its second top-five finish in the last three seasons. MEN'S SOCCER Season Opener: Indiana Aug. 24 at Alumni Field in South Bend. ACC Predicted Finish: Top three; What To Watch For With The Irish's Fall Teams Graduate student Olivia Markezich was the Irish women's cross country team's top individual finisher at both the ACC Championship (third) and the NCAA Championship (eighth) in 2022. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS ND SPORTS

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason 2023