Sept. 21, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
The 20th WNBA Playoffs begin on Wednesday night and the first round has a decidedly Irish flavor to it.
The single-elimination games being at 6 p.m. on ESPNews as Natalie Achonwa and Devereaux Peters of the fifth-seeded Indiana Fever play host to the Phoenix Mercury. At 8 p.m. the seventh-seeded Seattle Storm, led by Notre Dame’s own Jewell Loyd, heads to Atlanta for a contest with the Dream, also to be shown live on ESPNews.
Loyd finished the season ranked eighth in the WNBA in scoring at 16.5 points per game. Starting all 34 games for the Storm, the 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year has improved her stat line dramatically from her stellar debut season. Loyd hit 30.3% of her three-pointers this year (up from 20.8%), picked up 3.4 assists per game (up from 1.9) and more than doubled her steals per game up to 1.2 from 0.5.
A two-time WNBA champion as a member of both the 2013 and 2015 Minnesota Lynx, Peters begins her quest for a third ring as one of the Fever’s top players off of the bench, appearing in 30 games and averaging 5.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in her 14.7 minutes of action per game. Averaging one rebound every 4.9 minutes of playing time for Indiana, Peters ranks only behind Eriana Larkins and her former Irish teammate Achonwa. Achonwa, who spent the month of August helping Team Canada to a quarterfinal berth in the Rio Olympics, chipped in 3.6 points per game for the Fever and 2.0 rebounds in 24 appearances this summer.
With a win tonight, the Storm would advance to face the Chicago Sky at 1 p.m. on Sunday in second round action. Depending on the Fever-Mercury result, a Storm win would send Seattle to either Chicago on Sunday or New York at 7 p.m. on Saturday night as the WNBA reseeds teams after each round of the playoffs.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.