April 13, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the third time in as many years, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind./Washington HS) was named the recipient of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award, picking up the hardware at the 2003-04 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Banquet, which was held Tuesday evening at the Joyce Center.
More than 300 persons were in attendance to help the Irish celebrate a 21-11 season that included Notre Dame’s sixth NCAA Sweet Sixteen berth in the last eight years, the 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history (ninth in a row), and the 11th consecutive 20-win season for the Irish, all under the guidance of 17th-year head coach Muffet McGraw. In addition, Notre Dame was ranked 20th in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, a product of its outstanding postseason success.
Other honorees included: senior guards Monique Hernandez (Rio Rancho, N.M./Cibola HS) and Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Fort Lauderdale HS), who were selected as co-winners of the Defensive Player of the Year Award; sophomore guard Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne HS), who was named the team’s Most Improved Player; senior guard Jeneka Joyce (Topeka, Kan./Washburn Rural HS), who was tapped to receive the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award; and senior guard Anne Weese (Salina, Kan./Sacred Heart HS), who was honored with the Spirit Award. Each of the award winners on Tuesday night were selected by a vote of their teammates.
The MVP award caps off an impressive list of postseason honors for Batteast, who also was named an Associated Press honorable mention All-American and a first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection. In addition, she was a finalist for both the Naismith Award and the Kodak/WBCA All-America Team, and she garnered all-tournament team laurels at the NCAA East Regional and WBCA Classic.
This season, Batteast started all 32 games for the Irish, setting new career highs and ranking among the Top 10 in the BIG EAST in scoring average (16.0 ppg.), rebounding average (8.6 rpg.), field goal percentage (.452), double-doubles (13) and 20-point games (10). Her 276 rebounds are tied for the fifth-best in school history and second all-time among Notre Dame juniors behind Katryna Gaither’s 283 caroms in 1995-96. The talented Irish wing was at her best against top competition this year, averaging 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds with five double-doubles and three near double-doubles against 11 ranked opponents. Batteast’s best effort against a Top 25 team came on Jan. 13 when she piled up 23 points and 11 rebounds to help Notre Dame knock off No. 4 Connecticut, 66-51 at the Joyce Center.
For her career, Batteast ranks 11th in school history in scoring (1,315 points), just 58 points shy of moving into the Top 10 in that category. She also is fourth in career scoring average (14.6 ppg.), seventh in rebounds (747), second in rebounding average (8.3 rpg.) and eighth in both double-figure scoring games (72) and 20-point games (21). In addition, she will carry a streak of 64 consecutive games started into next season, a run that dates back to the beginning of the 2002-03 campaign, and she has started 86 of a possible 90 games in her college career.
Hernandez made a significant impact in her return to the Irish roster after an 18-month absence. She started 18 times in 31 games this season, with Notre Dame posting a 13-5 record in games that she started. Hernandez wound up averaging 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, but her contributions were most often seen in the lack of production by the opponent’s top scorers. In fact, in her first start against No. 16/15 Virginia Tech on Jan. 10, she held the Hokies’ top perimeter threat, Carrie Mason, to just nine points in 38 minutes as the Irish logged a 53-40 win, the first of seven regular-season victories Notre Dame would register against Top 25 teams.
Severe earns the squad’s Defensive Player of the Year honor for the second consecutive season after recording a team-high 54 steals and collecting a career-best 4.0 rebounds per game. In addition, the two-year captain averaged 7.3 points per game, had 11 double-figure scoring games and piled up the first double-double of her career with 10 points and 10 rebounds at St. John’s. Severe also was named to the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team and she was ranked among the Top 15 in the BIG EAST in free throw percentage (.822), steals (1.69 spg.), assists (3.25 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (1.17). She leaves Notre Dame in 10th place on the school’s career steals list with 194 thefts, and she showed impressive endurance by starting the final 75 games of her career.
Duffy’s selection as Notre Dame’s Most Improved Player was no surprise, considering she had been selected for the same honor by the BIG EAST earlier this month. After averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 assists per game with an 0.94 assist/turnover ratio, a .242 field goal percentage and a .200 three-point percentage as a freshman, Duffy obliterated those figures this season. She started 31 of 32 games, leading the team and ranking among the conference leaders in assists (3.9 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (1.36), while also posting a team-high three-point percentage (.404) and placing second on the squad in scoring (9.9 ppg.). She scored in double figures 17 times this season after doing so only twice last year, and she had 14 games with at least five assists after topping that mark just three times as a freshman.
Like Hernandez, Joyce made a triumphant comeback this season, returning from a year-long injury-induced layoff to register career highs for scoring (5.4 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.396) while appearing in 27 games and starting five times. Her best stretch came in mid-February when she averaged 15.0 points and shot .538 from the three-point line (14 of 26) in wins over Providence, St. John’s and Pittsburgh. An accomplished student, Joyce is a psychology major in the College of Arts and Letters and sports a 3.557 cumulative grade-point average. She has been named to the Dean’s List five times and was a three-time selection to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team.
In just two seasons at Notre Dame, Weese endeared herself to Irish fans with her relentless work ethic and infectious personality. Joining the team as a walk-on last season after a superb junior college career, Weese appeared in 19 games and started once for the Irish over the past two years, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds in that time. Her best single-game performance with the Irish came in this year’s home opener against Valparaiso when she scored four points.
Notre Dame will have eight monogram winners and four starters returning next season, complemented by three talented freshmen who will arrive on campus this summer. The Irish also will have several team and individual milestones to look forward to in 2004-05, highlighted by an active 20-game home winning streak (second-longest in school history and currently eighth-longest in the nation). In addition, McGraw has 384 career wins at Notre Dame and needs just 10 more victories to pass Digger Phelps for the most wins ever by an Irish basketball coach (men’s or women’s). As a program, Notre Dame is one of only five schools to reach the NCAA Sweet Sixteen six times in the last eight years, and it is one of just six teams to win 20 games in each of the last 11 years.
— ND —