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Marmul and Byers look to fulfill unfinished business

Dec 12, 2012, 4:09 PM EDT

Byers (#4) makes a move against a Vanderbilt defender. Byers (#4) makes a move against a Vanderbilt defender.

The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team will start the spring season with two new assistant coaches. Jake Marmul and Jill Byers are not new to the Irish community, however.

Both contributed to the Notre Dame lacrosse family by playing four years of college lacrosse in South Bend. Marmul, the former midfielder on the Irish originally from Michigan, is fresh off graduation while finishing up his studies two years ago and graduating in 2011. Marmul was a double major while at Notre Dame, majoring in psychology and sociology. He was the prototypical student-athlete while earning a 3.45 in psychology and a 4.0 in sociology. Marmul is familiar with the high level of competition within the BIG EAST. He was a faceoff guru during his time at Notre Dame, a valuable aspect of the game that decides who earns possession of the ball.

Marmul also had to battle through adversity while at Notre Dame. He missed his entire junior season with a knee injury, but returned the next year due to a strong work ethic in the rehabilitation period. Marmul finished his career with a 52-14 overall record and made the national championship in one of his four NCAA Tournament appearances. Marmul left his “other dream job” in public relations when he worked for Quicken Loans back home in Detroit while coaching lacrosse on the side at a local high school. He was hired to aid Coach Halfpenny in a number of tasks and bring a different perspective from the men’s game.

Jill Byers was the perfect hire for the Irish because each member of the team aspires to play lacrosse in the same way as her. She is arguably the best women’s lacrosse player in school history. Byers graduated from Notre Dame in 2009. She was an All-American and runner up for the nation’s best player her senior year. She keeps up with her athletic skill as a member of the U.S. national team competing against the best in the world. Byers graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in film, television and theatre. Byers was an assistant coach for Yale upon graduation for three seasons before returning to the Irish as an assistant. She will be a great source for the players on how to play the game the right way. I had the opportunity to sit down with both optimistic coaches and talk about their important upcoming season with the team.

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Jake Marmul (Photo by Matt Cashore)

Rich Hidy: How do you use your experience as a player to help teach the current players?

Jill Byers: “I think the great thing is that I am living proof that you can be successful on the field and in the classroom. I understand what it’s like to juggle academics and being a top 10 team. I know the schedule and the professors and the support staff as well. I had four knee surgeries and was in the training room all the time, so I can see eye to eye with the kids that have to battle through the adversity of injury.”

RH: What is the main difference between playing and coaching for you?

Jake Marmul:  “Since I am coaching the women’s game, there are a lot of differences. It is making sure I understand everything. When you are coaching, you have to know why things are a certain way and teach. I am trying to make sure I take what I know from the men’s game and bring it over to the women’s.”

RH: What is it like to come back to the program that you had so much success with?

JB: “It’s a dream come true. I never thought this job would open. I have unfinished business because my freshman year I got a taste of the Final Four. It was the biggest game I have ever played in throughout my life. I have that fire in my belly to make it back to that position again with this team.”

RH: How has the transition between men’s and women’s lacrosse been so far?

JM: “Better than I first thought. I was nervous when Chris [Halfpenny] first called me but after talking with her and Jill [Byers], I felt more comfortable. They are awesome to work with. The girls know I don’t know all of the rules, but they’re ok with that. The girls are very good about helping me out with this transition too.”

RH: What are some of your responsibilities as assistant coaches?

JB: “I oversee the offense and the draw unit. We have a great staff. Jake (Marmul) is great with the defense and Chris [Halfpenny] can do a little bit of everything. She especially works with the goalkeepers, which are a key part to this team. Jake [Marmul] and I are fresh out of college, so we are not that far removed and we have that understanding. We can help out with the different aspects of college life.”

JM: “There are a lot of responsibilities that I didn’t know were part of coaching. I have been working on some of the travel, film, and off the field relationship building activities. I help the girls set goals as well.”

RH: What are your best memories of ND lacrosse from when you were a student?

JB: “There are a lot of them. On the field, going to the Final Four, winning the BIG EAST Championship my senior year, and beating Georgetown for the first time in the program’s history my freshman year. Off the field, my teammates are my best friends. We didn’t live together our freshman year because of random room assignments, but we gravitated towards each other sophomore year. Junior year we all tried to live in the same dorm and senior year, nine of us lived off campus. The experiences of getting up at 6 a.m. for practice, going home after practice, and driving through snow storms are just some of the memories I have.”

JM: “Even though we lost, my last game playing on an organized team was in Foxboro Stadium. You can’t beat that. We took a trip to Japan, which was phenomenal. The relationships with the coaching staff and the players were amazing. I had an interesting career here with missing two years due to injury, but I still felt like I was part of the team even if I wasn’t playing. Lacrosse was a tremendous part of my experience at Notre Dame.

RH: What are your goals for the team this year?

JB: “Definitely to win the BIG EAST. I don’t know how much longer we will be in this conference, so it would be great to go out with a bang before we leave. We want to go undefeated at home. ND has one of the greatest home field advantages out of any team. The football team has had a stellar season, so we want to do something similar.”

JM: “I am expecting a lot. We have a lot of talent, youth, and athleticism. We have a good group of seniors to create some balance. I am looking forward to seeing what happens this spring when we actually start getting into some games. I think we are going to do pretty well.”

RH: What does Notre Dame lacrosse mean to you?

JB: “Tradition, integrity, family, competitiveness, loyalty, character, happiness. All of those characteristics. It is like home. I never thought I would pick South Bend as my home, but this place has that type of feeling to me.”

JM: “I left my dream job to come back to this dream job. When Chris [Halfpenny] gave me the call to see if I was interested, I jumped at the chance. It was a no brainer. The four years I played here absolutely transformed me as a person. Now I have the chance to be on the other side of that and to make others’ time here memorable. It is a great opportunity.”

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