Many Saint Ignatius students find a certain fit and comfort with John Carroll University. From the similar campuses to the excellent coursework at both to the shared Jesuit traditions, Saint Ignatius and JCU have a tight bond.
Ryan Notarianni felt the connection right away and fell in love with John Carroll. So, he'll be headed to University Heights in the fall to play soccer and attain a bachelor's degree in business.
"John Carroll is an awesome school and I'm super lucky to be a part of it," Notarianni said.
Notarianni entered Saint Ignatius with a bit of uncertainty. He didn't have a lot of connections to the school, besides the fact that he played club soccer under Mike McLaughlin '85. It didn't take long for him to feel right at home.
But it did take more time for him to find playing time. After spending his freshman year on the JV level, Notarianni earned a spot on the varsity level as a sophomore with the rest of his vaunted 2020 class. But an injury prevented him from playing a ton and reaching his full potential.
Injuries again afflicted Notarianni as a junior. He did see significant time, but nagging injuries held him back a bit. Another season-ending loss to the Bees in the State Semifinal also proved crushing to Notarianni, a Medina native.
But during his senior season, everything clicked for the man affectionately called "Notar" by many of his teammates and coaches.
Notarianni started all 23 games during the 2019 campaign. He morphed into a shutdown defender, rarely allowing shots or penetration to the goalie.
"He was an incredible marking back," McLaughlin said. "He's one of the more athletic defenders that we've had play in our program. He shut down some of the best forwards in the state and country. We talked about this at the banquet – in 23 games he only committed 4 fouls. That's incredible. We've got midfielders who've committed 20 fouls. And Ryan is an aggressive, physical defender. His composure is great, too. And what he can do with the ball expanded this season."
As McLaughlin said, Notarianni only accrued 4 fouls over 1,617 minutes this season. Notar also tallied 1 goal and 5 assists on the scoresheet.
Beyond his accomplishments on the stat sheet, Notarianni's contributions became visible in other ways. His vision and field awareness made him an indispensable part of the Wildcats' state and national championship quest.
"As coaches, we hope that the players see the game at a high level. The only way that happens is by putting them in situations over and over again in games and practices and hope they begin to see things," McLaughlin said. "It was incredible to watch Ryan grow in his awareness of the game over his three years on varsity. Again, we played some of the top teams in the country, and every game, he showed up and was one of the best defenders in the country."
Notarianni made plenty of memories during his four years, particularly during his senior season. But the pinnacle for him may have come a few days before the state title.
For the Medina native, the 3-0 conquest of the Bees in the State Semifinal was absolutely unforgettable.
"I was more emotional after that game than after the state championship," Notarianni said. "After finally beating them, I almost passed out. My mom and I caught eye contact, and there were tears. Other than making the team, that was one of my best experiences."
After the Wildcats won the program's ninth state title and fifth national crown, Notarianni really dug into the college process.
After doing some soul searching, JCU became the obvious choice.
"I looked at a bunch of schools. I applied to eight or so. Every other school I looked at had one thing that didn't really fit with me. But John Carroll never had that, everything fit," Notarianni said. "I was super comfortable, it was like a bigger Ignatius to me. The soccer and the school of business works for me, so right out of the gate, it was a fit for me."
During his tour of JCU, Notarianni took a tour with a current senior. The jaunt around the school included a visit to the prestigious Boler School of Business, where Notarianni hopes to spend much of his time.
After the tour, he visited with JCU men's soccer head coach Hector Marinaro and associate head coach/recruiting coordinator Dejan Mladenovic.
"They said, 'If you come here, you have to earn it.' But I like that. Nothing is given," Notarianni said. "That's great. I like their schedule– you wake up, eat breakfast, go to class, get lunch and dinner, and then you train. Basically, as I do now, so that made me comfortable."
McLaughlin is thrilled at this excellent opportunity for his star student-athlete.
"I'm really excited for him and this opportunity at John Carroll," McLaughlin said. "JCU has become a top 10 Division III program in the country, and I think that Ryan will continue to flourish. They'll love what he brings to the team and the field. It's a great opportunity for him."
With a 3.1 cumulative GPA and a 3.6 GPA last semester, Notarianni is excited to continue his outstanding Jesuit education. Saint Ignatius has taught him how to be a better student, and an athlete, through the importance of preparation.
"Saint Ignatius has taught me a lot of things, such as study habits and how to use my time effectively," he said. "I've learned how to work hard and prepare myself for things like the state championship. It turned me into a different animal. I feel a lot better prepared going into college than if I went somewhere else. Saint Ignatius prepared me well."
But before he leaves Saint Ignatius, Notarianni has a message to express.
He has plenty of thank you's to say.
"I want to thank Mr. McLaughlin for everything he's done for me, working with me ever since I was 10 years old playing club with him," Notarianni said. "He's been a super big influence on who I am and what I've done here. I also want to thank all of my coaches, teammates, friends – everyone who's supported me. Thank you to my family for sticking with me. It was a brutal process of getting knocked down [after playoff losses], then having to work back up, and dealing with me upset and mad, thinking to ourselves, 'Was this the best option? Could we have done something differently?' Thanks to them for being with me. I'm super thankful."
As for McLaughlin, he'll miss seeing Notar" every day, as will many of us here at Saint Ignatius.
Notarianni is a great young man with a bright future ahead.
"Ryan was consistently genuine every day. He's a wonderful human being," McLaughlin said. "So much of what we do in this school and program is about being a good young man. Ryan embodied this in an incredible way. He was wonderful to his teammates and coaches. He's just a gentleman in everything he did. Everyone who encounters Ryan values what he brings to his relationships."