June 13, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team will tip off its 2007-08 season with a home game against Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), it was announced Wednesday afternoon by tournament operator and manager Triple Crown Sports. The Irish and RedHawks will tangle Nov. 9 at the Joyce Center, with the official start time and ticket information to be released at a later date. The game is the latest addition to a busy athletics weekend on the Notre Dame campus — the Irish football team takes on Air Force Nov. 10 at Notre Dame Stadium (preceded the night before by the traditional on-campus football pep rally), while the Irish volleyball team closes out the BIG EAST Conference regular season with home matches against Cincinnati (Nov. 9) and Louisville (Nov. 11) at the Joyce Center.
Miami posted a 12-18 record last season, including a 6-10 record in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) East Division. In the process, the RedHawks improved their overall record by four victories and doubled their conference win total from the ’05-06 season. MU also should be bolstered next year by the return of 11 scholarship athletes and all five starters, led by first-team all-MAC guard Amanda Jackson. In addition, this year’s Preseason WNIT opener also will be a homecoming of sorts for Miami rising senior guard/forward Jaclyn Leininger, who hails from Winona Lake, Ind., and graduated from Warsaw High School in 2004.
“We’re thrilled with the chance to play in the Preseason WNIT once again, and looking forward to a really good first-round matchup with a solid Miami team,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “They’re an up-tempo, high-octane team and they have everyone back from last year when they were right in contention in the (Mid-American Conference) until the last week of the regular season. It will be a strong challenge for us in our season opener, and I hope our fans are as excited as we are about the start of next season.”
Notre Dame and Miami will be meeting for the sixth time, with the RedHawks owning a 4-1 series lead on the Irish (2-1 in South Bend), although the past four contests each have been decided by five points or less. The two sides have not met on the hardwood since Dec. 28, 1994, when MU edged Notre Dame, 79-76 in the consolation game at the Seattle Times Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash. Miami will be making its first visit to the Notre Dame campus since Feb. 17, 1991, when the RedHawks posted a 69-65 win over the Irish. Notre Dame’s lone series win came nearly a quarter-century ago on Dec. 10, 1982, a 64-59 verdict at the Joyce Center.
Should the Irish defeat Miami in their Preseason WNIT opener, they would move on to face the winner of the East Tennessee State-Western Kentucky first-round contest that will be played in Bowling Green, Ky., also on Nov. 9. That Preseason WNIT quarterfinal game would take place sometime from Nov. 11-13, with Notre Dame expected to play host to that game as well. On the other hand, an opening-round loss to Miami would drop the Irish into the consolation bracket, with matchups and sites to be determined at a later date.
The 14th edition of the Preseason WNIT will feature a new format this fall, moving from the traditional single elimination bracket to a three-game guarantee format, with all games still played at campus sites. The semifinals slated for Nov. 14-15 and the title game to take place on Nov. 18, while the newly-created consolation bracket will be played out on Nov. 16-17.
Notre Dame will be making its third appearance in the Preseason WNIT, and first since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish reeled off four consecutive victories, all at the Joyce Center, to win their first championship. Notre Dame made waves in its final two tournament games, ousting No. 6 Duke, 76-65 in the semifinals and No. 10/9 Ohio State, 66-62 in the title game three days later. It was the second time in school history the Irish posted back-to-back victories over top-10 opponents, having previously pulled off that feat at the 2001 NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis (vs. No. 1 Connecticut and No. 9/8 Purdue) en route to the program’s first national championship.
The Irish also took part in the 1996 Preseason WNIT, finishing third on the strength of wins over another MAC school, Kent State (66-41) at home, at No. 6 Iowa (61-50) and vs. No. 8/12 North Carolina State (64-53) in the consolation final after losing to No. 3/2 Tennessee (72-59) in the semifinals, played at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.
As a conference, the BIG EAST has performed very well in the Preseason WNIT, sending a team to the championship game in four of the past six years and six times in the tournament’s 13 years of existence. Notre Dame (2004) and Connecticut (1997, 2001, 2005) have won Preseason WNIT titles, while Rutgers twice has finished as tournament runner-up (1998, 2003). For more information on the tournament, including a full rundown of the 2007 first-round matchups, visit the official Preseason WNIT web site.
Notre Dame will have three starters and nine monogram winners returning this fall from last year’s club that posted a 20-12 record, reached the NCAA Tournament for the 12th consecutive season and advanced to the second round with a 62-59 win over California before a narrow 60-51 season-ending loss to top seed (and eventual Final Four participant) North Carolina. Renewal notices for Irish season ticket holders recently were mailed out, and include the option to purchase tickets for any Preseason WNIT games that may be played at the Joyce Center, including the season opener vs. Miami. For fans wishing to buy Notre Dame women’s basketball season tickets for the first time, those will go on sale in August through the Irish Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), while individual game tickets will go on sale in October, following the release of the completed ’07-08 Notre Dame women’s basketball schedule.
— ND —