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Six Days in California

Mar 20, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

The Notre Dame lacrosse team runs drills at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Bach, Cali. on March 9, 2014.

It’s not uncommon for teams to take trips over spring break. More often than not, they go south to get some sun—work on their tans a little. This year, the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team went south and west—all the way to SoCal.

The first weekend of the trip, the sixth-ranked Irish played twelfth-ranked Denver at Orange Coast College’s LeBard Stadium the Pacific Coast Shootout. With temperatures in the 80s, and the sun shining that Saturday afternoon, the team found a much-needed break from the Permacloud.

“Getting away from the cold and the snow was incredible. It’s been a long winter out here and we’ve been playing inside since the fall, so being out in the sun was awesome,” senior defenseman Brian Buglione expressed, “How can you not have a good time playing under the sun in California? It also provided a little bit of a break from our normal routine which is great when the season starts to feel like a little bit of a grind.”

Junior midfielder Jack Near also appreciated the climate difference between South Bend and Southern Cal. “The environment for the game was incredible. Great venue, great fans, and great weather made for an unforgettable experience, and much thanks and credit are due to senior Ryan Mix’s parents for bringing a high profile game out to California. It was a little surreal taking the faceoff wing and having palm trees in the backdrop.”

For Mix, the trip served almost as a conventional spring break—something athletes rarely get. Mix grew up in Newport Beach and the team stayed two minutes away from his home. His family helped arrange the game, provided a cookout for the team’s lunch on Sunday, and gave the Irish a solid fan-base for the game.

“My favorite part of the trip other than seeing my family, of course, was to show my teammates the area I grew up in,” Mix said. “To play at my local community college in front of a massive crowd was an incredible experience, and something that I would have never thought possible back when I first arrived at Notre Dame.”

Unfortunately, the game ended in a 10-7 loss for the Irish. Head Coach Kevin Corrigan credited the loss not to poor gameplay, but to lack of creativity. “We didn’t play that poorly against Denver, but we failed to finish our opportunities and we allowed them to control the pace of play. I think we can do both of those things better. We also weren’t creative enough in using our personnel. They had a good defensive game plan and we should have been better prepared to mix things up and keep them off balance.”

The team quickly learned from those mistakes to upset Virginia, 18-9, the following weekend at the Loftus Sports Center, giving them a 3-2 season record and a 2-0 record in the ACC.

The entire team trip lasted six days, but the game only took up one, so following work, the team got to play a little. The team woke up on Sunday, had some breakfast and then headed to Mix’s high school, Corona del Mar, to have practice and host a clinic. The clinic was a morale boost for members of the team such as senior Matty Collins. “I actually had the most fun at the pre-practice clinic our team put on at Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach,” Collins said. “It was the day after our loss to Denver and a lot of us were down, and I think when the young kids came out to play it reminded us why lacrosse is such a fun sport. It’s always a good thing to give back to the game, especially in Southern California where lacrosse is growing so fast.”

After the clinic, the team headed to the Mix residence for lunch.

Concluding their time in Newport Beach, the team took a cruise along the shore to see the beauty Newport Beach had to offer. The cruise was well-documented in photos on the ND Lacrosse twitter account.

The next day, the itinerary featured a trip to San Diego—the favorite part of the trip for Near and Buglione, both New York natives. Particularly, Near and Buglione enjoyed the trip to the US Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado because their tour of the base was given by Steve Clagett, a Notre Dame lacrosse alum (2001-2004). “He shared his insights with us after watching our game against Denver and spoke about team success and overcoming hardships. It was a truly incredible experience that I will never forget.” Buglione then joked, “We were all happy that Steve didn’t put us through their training regiment while we were there.”

It’s impossible to go to the Pacific Ocean without getting a day at the beach in, so later that day after practice at junior Kyle Runyon’s high school and then lunch, the team made it to the sandy shores. Near said, “My favorite part of the day was getting the chance to jump in the Pacific Ocean and get some body surfing in. I’m Team Ocean over Team Lake any day, so this particular part of the trip struck close to home for me. Also, it was great to be in such a different environment with the guys; the dynamic was really fun.”

All in all, the lacrosse coaching staff looks to make sure their team works hard, but finds a good balance of leisure. “Obviously, we were there to play, first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do things for fun and to provide our guys a great experience. Ultimately, we believe that helps our team be more successful and our players to develop as people, as players, and as teammates.”

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