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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

Underclassmen look to step up at invitational

Notre Dame heads to Nashville, Tennessee, over Easter break for the Mason Rudolph Invitational, its final tournament of the regular season.

Irish head coach Jim Kubinski said he was excited about his team’s chances this weekend when it travels to the Legends Club in Nashville for Vanderbilt’s annual spring tournament.

“There’s a lot of strong competition at Vanderbilt, which is what we’ll face at ACCs,” Kubinski said. “This week offers us another chance to get out and compete, which is part of the development process with a young group. Our guys are hungry for success, so every time out is exciting for us.”

Once they get to Nashville, Kubinski said the Irish have a plan of how to finish the season strong.

“We’re a team that needs to keep building confidence and trust. That’s our No. 1 goal now,” Kubinski said. “Whether in Nashville or here on campus, we’re excited about every opportunity to compete. It’s competition that offers young players the most. It looks like one starter, [junior] Cory [Sciupider], will be out this week with an injury, but that should also provide an opportunity for another young guy to step up.”

Kubinski, while approaching the end of the long regular season, also took the time to look back on the progress this team has made over the course of the year thus far.

“This has been a transitional season for us, playing so many young and developing players. Even players who had played some in the past were in new roles this year, so we had some bumps in the road early on,” Kubinski said. “It's exciting, though, to see the evidence of our players improving in recent weeks. We didn’t have a senior in the lineup over the two-tournament spring break.

“We had a sophomore [Blake Barens] and freshman [Thomas Steve] lead us last time out in Naples. In fact, Blake had an opportunity going to his last hole of the tournament to set his career best score three days in a row over break [a 71 in San Diego, a 70 day 1 in Naples and needed a par for 69 to finish on Day 2]. I don't think we've ever had a player set his personal best on three straight days. The development of Blake and Thomas, with [sophomore] Matt Rushton’s strong play over our fall season and bookending break with a 69 to start in San Diego and finish in Naples shows the progress of our young guys. Their development will give us an opportunity for success at Vanderbilt but, more importantly, with our long-term goals as well.”

Kubinski even compared his squad to the same development the men’s basketball team went through last year before finding such tremendous success this season.

“We all look at how exciting and successful our men’s basketball team was this year — such a great ride for our whole campus,” Kubinski said. “Lost in all that excitement was the development time players like [Zach] Auguste, [Demetrius] Jackson, [Steve] Vasturia, et cetera, went through last year. They all improved a great deal through their hard work and competitive opportunities. Our boys are in that process now. It’s fun to come to work each day and watch young players improving.”

The young and improving Irish will try to cap off their transitional regular season with a strong showing in Tennessee in anticipation of both the ACC championships at the end of the month and a new season in the fall.

The Mason Rudolph Invitational will tee off Friday morning and last through Sunday afternoon at The Legends Club in Nashville.