April 10, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) was chosen to receive the 2006-07 Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award at this year’s Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Banquet, which was held Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.
Approximately 400 people were in attendance as the Irish celebrated their remarkable ’06-07 campaign, a season that saw Notre Dame overcome the loss of its top three scorers from a year ago and yet post a 20-12 overall record, as well as a 10-6 mark and fifth-place finish in the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish went on to make their 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance (14th overall), defeating California, 62-59 in the opening round, then pushing top-seeded (and second-ranked) North Carolina to the brink in round two — leading by eight points with less than 13 minutes remaining — before being eliminated, 60-51.
In addition, Notre Dame recorded its 13th 20-win season in the past 14 years, not to mention its 15th consecutive winning season, 19th in the 20-year Muffet McGraw era and 26th in the 30-year history of Irish women’s basketball. The Irish also collected a pair of wins over ranked opponents (now totaling 42 in the past nine years) and ranked 10th nationally with an average attendance of 6,364 fans per game (fifth-best in school history), marking the seventh consecutive year the Irish have been among the top 20 in the country in that category.
Other honorees at Tuesday night’s banquet included: senior guard Breona Gray (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman), who was tapped as the team’s Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season; junior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) and freshman center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg), who shared the team’s Most Improved Player Award; junior guard Amanda Tsipis (Perry, Ohio/Perry), who became a three-time winner of the Spirit Award and also was presented the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award; and senior forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul), who was honored for her extensive contributions to the program with the team’s first-ever Unsung Hero Award. Each of the award winners was chosen based on a vote of her teammates.
Notre Dame will have three starters and nine monogram winners returning next season, along with a three-player freshman class that was ranked 11th in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. It’s the 11th consecutive year that the Irish have attracted a top-20 recruiting class, with Notre Dame being one of only three schools in the country that holds that distinction.
Here’s a closer look at the 2006-07 Notre Dame women’s basketball award winners:
Charel Allen (Jr., G, Monessen, Pa./Monessen)
Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP
Allen transformed herself into one of the elite players in the BIG EAST during the ’06-07 season, doubling her scoring output from last year up to a team-high 17.0 points per game (seventh in the conference), while also collecting a team-best 6.2 rebounds per contest. During BIG EAST play, Allen was especially sharp, ranking second in the loop in scoring (19.3 ppg.). She ended up scoring in double figures 29 times in 32 games this season (including each of her final 12 outings), and she topped the 20-point mark 11 times, including a career-high 31 points (on 14-of-19 shooting) against St. John’s on Jan. 16.
Not surprisingly, awards were plentiful for Allen this season. She was a Kodak/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) honorable mention All-America selection, the 13th Notre Dame player in the past 12 years to garner that distinction. She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST honoree, a two-time BIG EAST Player of the Week choice and a four-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll pick.
What’s more, the 5-foot-11 wing reached two milestones during the year. From Feb. 11-17, she scored 25-or-more points in three consecutive victories over DePaul (25 points), Villanova (25) and Providence (26), becoming the first Notre Dame player since Katryna Gaither in 1997 to pull off that feat. In addition, when she connected on a jumper in the lane during the second half of the regular-season finale at DePaul on Feb. 26, Allen became the 23rd 1,000-point scorer in the program’s history. She will enter her senior year with 1,053 career points, currently placing her 21st on the Irish all-time scoring list.
Breona Gray (Sr., G, Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman)
Defensive Player of the Year Award
For the third time in as many seasons, Gray (first name pronounced bree-ON-uh) earned the Notre Dame Defensive Player of the Year Award. The 5-foot-9 guard started all 32 games for the Irish this season, averaging a career-best 6.8 points per game (fifth on the team), along with 2.0 rebounds and a personal-best 1.3 steals per game. In what became a recurring theme throughout her career, Gray was assigned to guard some of the top opposing players and took her job to heart. This season, the Irish co-captain locked down BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Jessica Dickson of South Florida, holding her without a field goal for more than 28 minutes, and also tied up BIG EAST Player of the Year Angel McCoughtry of Louisville, holding the league’s leading scorer to 10 second-half points (three field goals) in an Irish win over the No. 17/16 Cardinals. In addition, Gray held DePaul’s Allie Quigley to three second-half points on Feb. 11, and helped tighten the screws on North Carolina’s Ivory Latta, holding her to 11 points (on 4-of-12 shooting) for the first 39 minutes of Notre Dame’s NCAA Tournament second-round game against the Tar Heels.
Tulyah Gaines (Jr., G, North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne)
Most Improved Player Award (co-winner)
Gaines was a repeat winner of this award, having continued the impressive development that has been the hallmark of her career at Notre Dame. The speedy 5-foot-7 point guard nearly doubled her scoring average this season to 9.6 points per game (third on the team), while ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in assists (eighth – 3.91 apg.), free throw percentage (eighth – .815) and steals (sixth – team-high 2.06 spg.). Gaines scored in double figures a career-high 13 times this season, including three 20-point outings, and tossed in a career-high 27 points on Jan. 10 in a win over Cincinnati. The Irish co-captain also logged five-or-more assists in 13 games, including a season-high nine assists on two occasions (Nov. 19 vs. Western Michigan; Jan. 20 vs. Syracuse) and eight assists in Notre Dame’s NCAA Tournament second-round game vs. North Carolina. Furthermore, Gaines was the driving force behind an Irish offense that averaged 70.1 ppg., its best output since 2000-01.
Erica Williamson (Fr., C, Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg)
Most Improved Player Award (co-winner)
Williamson made history as the first Irish freshman ever to receive this honor. The fun-loving 6-foot-4 center was all business when she stepped on the hardwood this season, averaging 6.1 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per night with a .467 field goal percentage, ranking second on the team in the latter two categories. In addition, she led the team and ranked ninth in the BIG EAST (second among league freshmen) with 1.26 blocks per game, while her 39 rejections also were third-most ever by an Irish freshman. Williamson also was one of three Notre Dame rookies to be named to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, with Notre Dame becoming the first school in league history to have three players make that squad in the same season.
Amanda Tsipis (Jr., G, Perry, Ohio/Perry)
Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award
A three-time winner of Notre Dame’s Spirit Award, Tsipis (pronounced SIP-iss) is considered to be one of the most respected and popular players on the Irish roster, traits she has earned through her undying dedication to the success of the program. Whether it be through her tremendous work ethic in practice, or her constant support and uplifting demeanor on the bench during games, Tsipis has helped set a standard of leadership and hard work that were the foundations of Notre Dame’s success in 2006-07. She played in 16 games this season, scoring four points in 28 minutes of action, and adding a career-high two rebounds in a win over Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28.
Off the court, Tsipis is extremely dedicated to her studies. She is currently enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business, where she is pursuing a double major in finance and psychology and has a 3.598 cumulative grade-point average. Tsipis also is a two-time Dean’s List honoree, most recently earning that distinction this past fall, when she posted a 3.679 term GPA. In addition, she is a two-time selection to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team, and likely will make her third appearance on that elite list when it is released later this semester.
Crystal Erwin (Sr., F, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul)
Unsung Hero Award
Perhaps no player was more responsible for bringing an added focus and determination for the Irish during the 2006-07 season than Erwin. Throughout the summer, the 6-foot-2 forward helped lead the team’s offseason workouts while providing valuable leadership for the team’s freshmen. Then, after Notre Dame lost sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader to a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 15, Erwin stepped to the forefront and was critical in ensuring that the Irish not only maintained their offseason progress, but advanced that even further on the way to the program’s 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.
On the court, Erwin led by example, averaging a career-best 5.4 points per game, along with 4.0 rebounds per game. She also displayed a refined perimeter game, knocking down 13 three-point field goals after only attempting one trey in her first three seasons at Notre Dame. She scored a season-high 14 points in a win over Western Michigan on Nov. 19, and nearly collected a double-double with nine points and a season-best eight rebounds in a victory over DePaul on Feb. 11.
— ND —