It’s been a long, great year of Notre Dame sports. So much has happened since we all arrived on campus back in August. Here at The Observer, we covered it all. And though I’m definitely a bit biased, I feel confident in saying we covered it pretty well. There will be more to come as some of the spring sports continue their seasons. On both the lacrosse field and baseball and softball diamonds, there are hopes of deep postseason runs. But today, our final day of production for 2022-23, is a time for reflection. So, we’ll/I’ll toot our/my own horn for just a moment as I look back on my 10 favorite Observer sports articles of this crazy, exciting year of athletics at Notre Dame — and beyond.
10. A-O-K again: the song and story that ended the Phillies’ 11-year wait — Andrew McGuinness
“There have always been happy memories. But they felt a bit hollow without a happy conclusion to pair them with. Therefore, the ending was always going to be special.”
In case you didn’t read the headline, this is not a ranking of our 10 best articles of the year — just my 10 personal favorites. There are so, so, so, so, so many better articles that we put out this year that are better than this one — part of the reason I don’t feel terrible about this pick is that choosing between them is basically impossible. But I waited 4,014 days to see the Phillies return to the postseason, and somehow, their clinching game didn’t just live up to my wildest dreams — it exceeded them. From both a baseball and personal perspective, this song and everything that happened the night the drought ended was just “so sweet,” and that was all I ever needed from the team that defined my childhood.
9. Ivey needed to be near-perfect Sunday to capture ACC. She was. — J.J. Post
“Ultimately, Ivey has shown that she values trust in her young squad above all else. And Sunday, that trust resulted in a championship.”
This wonderful column by J.J. does a fantastic job of detailing just how difficult of a situation Niele Ivey was in during Notre Dame’s final regular season game, when the Irish lost star sophomore Olivia Miles with the conference regular season championship on the line. It also perfectly captures how well Ivey handled the moment, and the exciting implications that has for her and the Irish as a whole going forward as they look for better health and more success in 2023.
8. Something special about Super Bowl Sunday — Olivia Schatz
“You might have lost hundreds of dollars in betting. But, you also had spent a night filled with laughter, and sometimes rage, that you will never get back.”
The best articles are the ones that you can relate to your own personal life. It’s all but impossible to read this article by Olivia and not think of your own special Super Bowl memories. For me, it’s standing on my couch back home, hugging my sister on her 20th birthday as our beloved Eagles celebrated their first Super Bowl five years ago. For Olivia, it’s connecting with good friends back home.
There’s a popular tweet that says, “The point of sports is to be sad in a group,” which I think is half right. To me, the point of sports is to have a group to feel whatever you want — happy, sad or anywhere in between — a truth this article tells beautifully. A Super Bowl 57 that involved all of the above for me, a bittersweet Eagles fan, was undoubtedly better because I spent it with friends.
7. Singing with the ultras — José Sánchez Córdova
“As I moved into the section, I found an usher who I thought might help me. ‘Where is seat 29?’ I asked in French. ‘No seats, go anywhere,’ he replied.”
Reading this article by José will place you in one of the most iconic and unique places to watch a sports game — the supporters’ section of a high-stakes Champions League match. The pacing of this article, much like a high-level football play, is so brilliant. It’s a perfect example of showing, not telling, something that is incredibly hard to master. That makes how well José pulls it off all the more impressive.
6. 7th Inning homers stun Volunteers, send Irish to first College World Series since 2002 — Andrew McGuinness
“And yet, at the moment of maximum doubt, the Irish had none.”
All the Irish did to reach their first College World Series since 2002 was stun capacity crowds in two of three games on the road against No. 1 Tennessee, rallying from 3-1 down in the seventh to cap their rapid rise in Link Jarrett’s three-year tenure by reaching the sport’s biggest stage. Like with the Phillies, there’s no feeling quite like the end of a lengthy drought. A few big late-inning swings on a fateful sunny Sunday in Knoxville, and 21 years of baseball demons in South Bend were exorcised just like that.
5. ZeLO series — Tom Zwiller
“I built it and all the decisions made were intentional and well-thought-out. It back tested incredibly well last year … Georgia won the title and Alabama finished second, mirroring the results of the actual season. Always a good sign.”
I’m cheating a little here by giving this slot to a series of articles rather than a specific one. As someone who is big into analytics, it blows my mind that someone my age is able to create not just a fully functional college football predicting model, but a pretty accurate one to boot. That’s exactly what Tom did throughout the 2022 season. Look forward to even more ZeLO coverage this fall — I know I am.
4. The 6,500 souls that built the 2022 FIFA World Cup — Olivia Schatz
“I am not blaming the fans … Rather, I hope that it will make people think just a little more than they did previously on the graves that the World Cup is built on.”
Often, the most serious thing for a college newspaper’s sports department to cover is a football loss to a mid-major school, something that could *never* happen to Notre Dame (curse you, Marshall). This thoughtful piece really shows Olivia’s range as a writer. It is incredibly well-researched, well-written and more than well-worth reading. Unlike a lot of articles, this piece does a fantastic job of letting readers think for themselves, but making sure they are aware of everything they should know about the black eye that was the host city of an otherwise spectacular World Cup.
3. ‘One of those special moments’: Irish knock off No. 4 Clemson 35-14 — Liam Coolican
“When junior quarterback Drew Pyne lined up in victory formation and the clock ticked toward zero, fans and students alike spilled onto the field in jubilation.”
The word jubilation is incredibly important here. The 2020 upset win over Clemson felt like more of a relief than anything. That semester was so hard that something — anything — had to go our way, right? The 2022 version, however, was more blissful. No stressing about double overtime or CFP implications. Just a game full of iconic and little moments (see below) to not just enjoy, but celebrate together. Liam’s article wonderfully captures the significance of all of it.
2. ‘I just did it for my team’: How the 1995 title shaped Kate Markgraf's mentality — Mannion McGinley
“In all of these roles, Markgraf took on larger leadership roles than she may have thought she would originally … Her advice? If something scares you, go after it.”
As someone who grew up cheering for Notre Dame, I felt like my knowledge of Notre Dame sports history was pretty solid. But not knowing the story of Kate Markgraf and Notre Dame’s 1995 women’s soccer championship was definitely a blind spot I’m happy to have filled in. Mannion tremendously tells the team’s story and Markgraf’s growth as both a player and a person, the latter of which is what sports are all about.
1. ‘Call duo until you can’t speak’: How the Irish used selfless football to forge their identity — Aidan Thomas
“But the Irish aren’t trying to be what they’re not … Rees and the Irish aren’t keeping it a secret. They want to physically dominate their opponent.”
Personally, my favorite sports stories to read are the ones that take one small little detail and show their importance in the broader picture. Without context, the quote in this headline means basically nothing. But Aidan does a stellar job of showing how these six words from then-offensive coordinator Tommy Rees defined not just Notre Dame’s high-water mark of the 2022 football season, but the evolution of the team — and the people who made it up — as a whole.