As nearly 2,000 fans packed Belson Stadium for the first game of 2005, the locker room was buzzing with excitement. The chanting students and the blaring band made us all feel as if we were freshmen preparing for our first home game.

With my sister from L.A. and many friends in the stands, I couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere for my first start for St. John’s. The student section made it impossible to hear, helping us send Notre Dame home.

Finally the long summer and preseason was starting to pay off. However, with a game on Sunday versus Marquette there was no time to celebrate. Our focus quickly turned to the Golden Eagles who were coming off a tie with Syracuse. The majority of Saturday was spent getting our legs back from the previous night and in meetings preparing for Marquette and their playing style. After a long video session we ate our usual pre-game pasta and chicken and went our separate ways for a good night sleep.

As I strode out on the sticky and dry turf for the day game, I noticed the absence of TV cameras and the roaring crowd that supported us to a win on Friday night. The excitement needed to come from the team instead. We prevailed over Marquette 1-0. After a long autograph session and sending my sister off back to L.A., I prepared for a long night of homework making up for the five days of class missed because travel in the first week and a half of school.

For me, it was a breakout weekend getting my first two starts, however, I must push this to the back of my mind. I now start a new cycle preparing for a week of 7 a.m. practices culminating in a nationally televised game against UConn Friday night. For me it will be the biggest game of my life, against our biggest rivals.

I look forward to the long meetings and early morning practices, because each minute I spend preparing; I know I’m that much closer to beating UConn.