Kristina Lynch once cheered for Irish and now trying to end their season

Scott Davidson
South Bend Tribune

Kristina Lynch fondly recalls celebrating birthdays as a kid at Notre Dame women’s soccer games.

The former Penn High School superstar hopes to be celebrating the end of the Irish season Tuesday.

Lynch, a junior for the powerhouse Florida State program, will be a key player as the No. 2 Seminoles face the No. 14 Irish in a quarterfinal matchup of the ACC Tournament in Cary, N.C. The contest begins at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and will air on the ACC Network.

Florida State, 8-0 in its shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, beat the Irish 5-0 in Tallahassee in the season opener back on Sept. 17. Notre Dame is 4-4. The ‘Noles are the top seed and the Irish the No. 8 seed.

Lynch, who was the National Player of the Year and led Penn to two state championships, is taking nothing for granted in the rematch with Notre Dame.

“That was the first game and everyone was just super excited to play,” noted Lynch of the first meeting with the Irish. “We know that every team steps up its game now. We’re confident. We have been preparing well for this match.”

Lynch, a 5-7 forward, has started all eight games. She has played a total of 441 minutes and has two goals. She played in 15 games with one start in 2019 after missing the final four games of her freshman season in 2018 due to a knee injury. The Seminoles won the national title in 2018 and Lynch made 20 starts before being hurt.

“I’m feeling good and everything is great,” said Lynch in a phone interview. “It (the injury) does not cross my mind now when I play. It took a lot of hard work and patience to get through it.

“I feel like I’m better now than before the injury. I think sitting out and watching helped me. I learned from it. I think one of my biggest improvements is in my soccer smarts thanks to that.”

Lynch knows the Irish very well and has strong ties to the school. She trained with several members of the women’s and men’s teams over the summer while she was home. Her younger brother Ryan is a freshman member of the Notre Dame baseball team.

“We all support each other,” said Lynch of her family, which also includes younger brother Brandon. “Ryan’s an FSU soccer fan in the fall and I’m a Notre Dame baseball fan in the spring.”

“I did go to so many Notre Dame soccer games as a kid. My goal then was to be on that team. So it does mean a lot to me to play against them.”

Lynch says just the opportunity to play is a blessing.

“It’s been a challenge, but when you are on the field you forget about everything else,” Lynch related. “The opportunity to play and do what you love is an outlet.”

Lynch comes from quite the athletic family. Father Greg played baseball at Wisconsin.

“It’s a cool dynamic that all of us are so dedicated and passionate about sports,” said Lynch of her family. “We’re definitely a family built on hard work. We all motivate each each and are each other’s biggest fan. I’m so proud of my brothers.”

Lynch believes the Seminoles, who have outscored their eight foes 25-4, can make another long tournament run. The team lost in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament in 2019. Coach Mark Krikorian is 284-66-30 with two national titles since taking over the program in 2005.

“We can accomplish great things if we treat every game like it’s a championship game,” said Lynch, whose team beat No. 3 Clemson 2-0 to wrap up the regular season on Nov. 1. “We need to play in the moment, play for each other and play our game.

“We are one big unit this season with great team chemistry. We play so well together that the game just flows for us.”

Penn grad Kristina Lynch, a junior at Florida State, takes on Notre Dame Tuesday in the ACC Tournament.