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Irish Play Second Exhibition Game Sunday Vs. Team Concept

Nov. 8, 2003

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(#16 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0 exhibition) vs. Team Concept (0-1 exhibition) (as of Nov. 7)

The Date and Time: Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003, at 1 p.m. ET.

The Site: Joyce Center (11,418) in Notre Dame, Ind.

The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires (play-by-play) and Shawn Lewallen (analysis). These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics website at

Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics will be available for the Team Concept game through the Notre Dame ( athletics web site.

Web Site: Notre Dame (

Following a solid win in its opening exhibition game on Monday night, the 16th-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team will get one final opportunity to polish its game when it takes on Team Concept Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET) at the Joyce Center. The Irish have had exceptional success in exhibition games during the past 11 seasons, going 19-1 (.950) in the preseason since the 1993-94 campaign.

Notre Dame tipped off its 2003-04 season with an 85-65 win over Northwest Sports on Monday at the Joyce Center. Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere led four Irish players in double figures with a game-high 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast carded a double-double with 20 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard Megan Duffy also chipped in with a double-double, collecting 12 points and 13 assists.

Notre Dame shot 52.5 percent from the floor in the contest and claimed a 48-37 edge on the boards. However, the most impressive stat of the night was the number of assists the Irish piled up < 27=”” handouts=”” on=”” 31=”” field=”” goals=”” in=”” a=”” strong=”” display=”” of=”” team=”” basketball.=””>

Team Concept opened its exhibition season with a 77-57 loss at Minnesota Wednesday night. Center Jana Lichernova had 14 points and guard Anita Heller added 12 points for the touring exhibition team, which was trounced on the glass by a 49-24 margin and gave up 21 offensive rebounds. The squad is comprised primarily of players from the Zala Volan club in Hungary, although three players did compete at American colleges.

Sunday’s game is the third stop on Team Concept’s six-game college tour. The squad played at Michigan State Saturday night before arriving in South Bend. Following Sunday’s contest, Team Concept will play three times in Florida later in the week.

With eight monogram winners and four starters back in the fold this season, Notre Dame has many of the pieces in place to be a major contender on the national scene. The Irish posted a 21-11 record last season and made their fifth NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in the past seven years, a feat only seven other schools in the country can match. However, although the majority of the 12-player Notre Dame roster has plenty of experience in pressure situations, the key this season will be to use that knowledge and bring the team one step closer to its ultimate goal — the national championship.

The primary strength for the Irish lies in the post, where all three frontline starters return. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection and an All-America candidate this season after averaging 13.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.56 blocks per game last season. She is one of only five players in school history to score more than 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame. Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere turned in an impressive rookie season, collecting 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last year on the way to a spot on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team and Freshman All-America honors from Women’ Junior center Teresa Borton has been a mainstay in the paint the past two seasons, averaging 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game last season with a team-high .574 field goal percentage. Junior forward Katy Flecky has played all three post positions during her Irish career, while also stepping outside to stretch the defense from the three-point line. Flecky logged 7.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in just over 23 minutes per game last season.

If there’s one area that will be closely scrutinized for Notre Dame this season, it is the backcourt. Senior Le’Tania Severe spent the past two years running the point for head coach Muffet McGraw, but she slides over to the shooting guard position this year in place of the departed Alicia Ratay. While it will be next to impossible to fill the shoes of the best three-point shooter in NCAA history, Severe has shown an ability to knock down long-range shots with strong accuracy, hitting at a .429 clip for her career from beyond the arc. Last season, Severe averaged 7.3 points and 3.8 assists per game, and her playmaking abilities will likely be called upon at times this year. Sophomore Megan Duffy takes over the everyday point guard responsibilities after earning her stripes in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, averaging 6.7 points in helping the Irish reach the Sweet Sixteen. A strong ballhandler with a smooth left-handed shot, Duffy spent much of this past offseason working on her perimeter shooting, hoping to improve on last year’s .242 field goal percentage (.200 from the three-point line).

One thing working in Notre Dame’s favor this season will be its depth. Up front, freshman Crystal Erwin will push for playing time immediately after a stellar prep career that saw her pick up All-America honors from virtually every media outlet as a senior. She averaged 22.3 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game in high school and was chosen as the 2003-04 BIG EAST Co-Freshman of the Year. In the backcourt, a trio of seasoned veterans and a pair of eager rookies will give the Irish added support. Seniors Jeneka Joyce and Monique Hernandez were members of Notre Dame’s 2001 NCAA title-winning squad and bring with them the intangible qualities of leadership and a championship attitude. Joyce missed all of last season with various leg injuries, while Hernandez is back after sitting out the last season and a half for personal reasons. Fellow senior Anne Weese joined the Irish as a walk-on midway through last season and also has championship experience, having won a junior college title at Seward County (Kan.) Community College in 2001-02. Entering the fray this year are freshmen guards Breona Gray and Susie Powers. Gray is a speedy, aggressive defender who averaged 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game during her high school career. Meanwhile, Powers was a playmaking guard at one of the nation’s top prep programs (Highlands Ranch HS in Colorado), averaging 13.6 points and 6.8 assists per game on the way to twice earning honorable mention All-America recognition. She also is a perimeter scoring threat, hitting at a 42 percent rate from behind the ring in high school.

Sunday’s opponent, Team Concept, actually is one of several teams touring the country representing the Team Concept, Inc., organization. The team that will arrive at the Joyce Center to face the Irish is comprised primarily of players from the Zala Volan club in Hungary, although a handful of the players did compete at American colleges. Most notably, center Jana Lichernova is a 2000 graduate of Saint Joseph’s (Pa.), the alma mater of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, and guard Anita Heller graduated from Florida International last spring. Additional players could be added to the Team Concept roster prior to Sunday’s game, including 1998 Louisiana Tech graduate and current Seattle Storm (WNBA) forward Alisa Burras, as well as 2003 Colorado graduate Sabrina Scott.

Sunday’s contest is the third on a six-game exhibition tour for Team Concept, which opened with a 77-57 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday night. Lichernova scored a team-high 14 points and Heller added 12 points and six assists for the exhibition club, which shot a respectable 40 percent from the floor (22 of 55), but was trounced in the rebounding column by a 49-24 count. Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen led all scorers with 17 points and the Golden Gophers connected on six of 15 three-point attempts (.400) to keep the visitors at bay all night long.

Team Concept played its second exhibition game on Saturday night at Michigan State, a game that was completed after press time. Following its visit to Notre Dame on Sunday, Team Concept will head south to take on a trio of Florida schools — Florida State (Nov. 10), Florida (Nov. 11) and Florida International (Nov. 12).

Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere scored a game-high 21 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures as the Irish opened their 2003-04 season with an 85-65 exhibition victory over Northwest Sports on Monday night at the Joyce Center.

LaVere connected on 10 of 14 shots from the field and added seven rebounds for Notre Dame, while junior forward Jacqueline Batteast rang up a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. However, the most pleasant surprise of the evening may have come from sophomore point guard Megan Duffy, who also posted a double-double with 12 points and 13 assists in 34 minutes of action. Junior forward Katy Flecky chipped in with a balanced performance for Notre Dame, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.

As a team, the Irish shot 52.5 percent from the floor (31 of 59), a figure that was all the more impressive considering Notre Dame misfired on nine of its first 10 shots in the opening five minutes of the game. The Irish also won the battle on the boards, 48-37, and had 27 assists on their 31 field goals in a strong display of team basketball.

Both teams appeared to be stuck in neutral early in the contest, although Northwest Sports used some solid passing to pick up a handful of layups and take a 12-7 lead with 14:24 remaining in the first half. Notre Dame chipped away at its deficit before taking the lead for the first time at 18-17 on a pair of free throws by senior guard Le’Tania Severe at the 12:01 mark. That helped ignite an 18-8 Irish run that put the hosts in front 34-25 six minutes later.

Northwest Sports got as close as six points when Kristen Pool hit one of two free throws coming out of the last media timeout of the first half. However, Notre Dame scored eight of the last 12 points in the period and took a 45-35 lead to the dressing room. After their early shooting struggles, the Irish closed out the first half smoking, hitting 15 of their last 22 shots from the floor (a .682 clip).

Notre Dame slowly expanded its lead to begin the second half, getting the margin up to 62-43 on a jumper by Batteast at the 11:26 mark. Northwest Sports made one last charge and got within 11 points (69-58) on a three-pointer by Thorn five minutes later. That would be the last opportunity for the visitors, as the Irish ended the game on a 16-7 run, pushing the lead over 20 points in the final two minutes.

Sophomore guard Megan Duffy was dealing more than a Las Vegas card shark in Notre Dame’s exhibition win over Northwest Sports on Monday night. The Dayton, Ohio, native dished out 13 assists, which would have tied for the second-highest total in school (and Joyce Center) history had it been a regular season contest. The last time an Irish player had that many assists in a game was Dec. 4, 1999, when Niele Ivey registered 13 handouts in a win over North Carolina. The school (and Joyce Center) record for assists in one game is 17 by Mary Gavin vs. Marquette on Jan. 31, 1987.

Duffy also showed a keen scoring eye against Northwest Sports, scoring 12 points (4-6 FG, 1-2 3FG) to complete her double-double performance. The 12 points would have tied Duffy’s career high (set vs. Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, 2003) and it would have marked Duffy’s first career double-double. Incidentally, the last time a Notre Dame point guard had a double-double was Jan. 15, 2001, when Ivey collected 14 points and 10 assists in a memorable 92-76 win over Connecticut at the Joyce Center.

Capitalizing on its strong finish last season, Notre Dame has been ranked 16th in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll that was released on Wednesday. It marks the seventh time in eight seasons in which the Irish have appeared in the preseason coaches’ survey — they were 25th in 1996-97, 19th in 1998-99, ninth in 1999-2000, fifth in 2000-01, 14th in 2001-02 and 12th in 2002-03.

The preseason Associated Press poll won’t be released until Tuesday afternoon, but it’s a good bet Notre Dame will appear in that balloting as well. If that’s the case, it also will be the seventh time in eight years that the Irish have begun the season by appearing in that poll. They were 20th in 1996-97, 17th in 1998-99, seventh in 1999-2000, sixth in 2000-01, 15th in 2001-02 and 10th in 2002-03.

Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable in exhibition games over the last 11 seasons. Since the 1993-94 campaign, the Irish are 19-1 (.950) in these preseason tilts and own an active 14-game exhibition winning streak, that includes an 85-65 win over Northwest Sports on Monday night. During that time, Notre Dame has outscored its preseason opponents by an aggregate score of 1,751-1,269, which is good for an average score of 87-63. The last squad to defeat the Irish in exhibition play was the Lithuanian National Team, which edged Notre Dame, 94-89 in 1996-97. But the Irish were not fazed by that loss — they went on to reach their first NCAA Final Four that year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) is one of 30 players who were named to the 2003-04 John R. Wooden Women’s Award Preseason All-America Team on Aug. 13. Based on a vote of the Wooden Women’s Award National Advisory Board, these 30 players are considered the top candidates for the inaugural Wooden Women’s Award, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-3rd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast is one of five BIG EAST players named to the Wooden Preseason All-America Team, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers, and the Connecticut duo of Ann Strother and Diana Taurasi.

In mid-January, the Wooden Women’s Award Committee will release its Midseason Top 20 List, followed in March by the official voting ballot which will consist of the top 10-15 players who have proven their success in the classroom (minimum 2.0 grade-point average) as well as on the court. More than 250 voters, comprised of sports media members and women’s college basketball experts around the country, will then cast their votes for the five-member Wooden All-America Team and the Wooden Award winner.

Although the 2003-04 season marks the debut of the Wooden Women’s Award, the honor initially was created in 1976 to recognize the top male collegiate basketball player in the nation. Past winners include Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84) and Tim Duncan (’97).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) is one of 35 players who were selected to the 2003-04 State Farm Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List on Aug. 20 by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Based on a vote of committee members which include leading coaches, journalists and basketball administrators, these 35 players are considered the top candidates for the State Farm Wade Trophy, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-3rd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast was one of five BIG EAST players named to the ’03-04 Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Ieva Kublina of Virginia Tech, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers and last year’s Wade Trophy recipient, Diana Taurasi of Connecticut.

The State Farm Wade Trophy, now in its 27th year, is named after Margaret Wade, the late Delta State University coach who won three national championship in the mid-1970s. The Wade Trophy is considered the one of the most prestigious individual awards in women’s college basketball and is organized by the WBCA, in conjunction with the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS).

Adding to her armload of preseason hardware, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) was named a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s in the magazine’s annual basketball preview issue. It’s the third preseason honor for the talented 6-2 wing, who is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection. She also was the 2001-02 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-American that season, as well as the unanimous choice for BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) and freshman forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) both received preseason recognition in a vote of the BIG EAST Conference coaches that was released at the league’s annual Media Day on Oct. 30 at the Newark (N.J.) Liberty Airport Hilton. Batteast was a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST selection, while Erwin was named the Preseason BIG EAST Co-Freshman of the Year, sharing the honor with Connecticut’s Liz Sherwood.

Batteast led the Irish in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.), blocked shots (1.56 bpg.) and double-doubles (8), ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in all four categories. She is a two-time second-team all-conference selection and is one of only five players in school history to score 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

As a senior last year at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Erwin earned All-America honors from Parade, Street & Smith’s and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and also was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-America Game in Atlanta. She averaged 22.3 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game during her storied prep career, averaging double-doubles during both her junior (24.9 ppg., 14.9 rpg.) and senior seasons (21.2 ppg., 10.2 rpg.). She holds career records at St. Paul for points (2,720), rebounds (1,630) and blocks (380), as well as the school single-season scoring mark (869 in 2001-02). She follows Batteast as the second Irish rookie in three years to be chosen the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is among 30 preseason candidates named to the watch list for 2003-04 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Awards which are presented annually by the Atanta Tip-Off Club. The Naismith Awards program, now in its 36th year, honors the outstanding male and female college basketball players in the United States. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-3rd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

The Naismith Award is the latest in a series of preseason honors for the Batteast. She was named a preseason All-American by both the John R. Wooden Women’s Award and Street & Smith’s magazine, and she also was selected to the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List. In addition, she was chosen as a first-team all-BIG EAST choice, according to a vote of the league’s head coaches.

Notre Dame has a full stable back in the fold this season, with four starters and eight monogram winners returning from last year’s club that advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the fifth time in seven seasons. Numerous media outlets have taken notice of these facts and have pegged the Irish high in the their preseason rankings. Six of those publications have ranked Notre Dame in the Top 20 in the country to begin this season — Athlon Sports (13th), Basketball Times (13th), Women’s Basketball Magazine (16th), Street & Smith’s (17th), Women’s Basketball News Service (17th) and Lindy’s Annual (18th). In addition, Women’ had the Irish ranked 14th in its “Early Bird Top 50 for 2003-04.”

According to a preseason survey of the BIG EAST Conference coaches, Notre Dame will finish third in the conference this season. Those were the results released at the league’s annual Media Day Oct. 30 in Newark, N.J. The Irish earned 139 points, placing them behind two-time defending national champion Connecticut (169 points, 13 first-place votes) and Rutgers (156 points, one first-place vote) in the preseason poll. Virginia Tech was fourth, followed by Boston College, Miami and Villanova. All seven of those schools qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season, with Notre Dame, Connecticut, Boston College and Villanova all advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Notre Dame is beginning its ninth season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference in 2003-04. The Irish have gone 112-24 (.824) all-time in regular-season conference games, posting the best winning percentage in league history. Connecticut is second with a .773 success rate. Notre Dame also has finished either first or second in the final BIG EAST regular-season standings six times, including a share of the BIG EAST title in 2000-01.

Notre Dame is one of only eight schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen five times in the past seven seasons (1997-2003). The others are Connecticut (seven times), Tennessee (seven times), Duke (six times), Louisiana Tech (six times), North Carolina (five times), Old Dominion (five times) and Texas Tech (five times).

The Irish are one of just six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 10 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in these elite club are Tennessee (27), Texas Tech (14), Louisiana Tech (12), Old Dominion (12) and Connecticut (10).

For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Irish will be wearing white uniforms at home this season, eschewing the golden togs they sported for the past four seasons. Notre Dame has worn white uniforms on numerous occasions on the past, dating as far back as the school’s first varsity women’s basketball squad, which took the floor in 1977-78. Blue will continue to be the primary color for the Irish road uniforms.

The newest addition to the Notre Dame coaching staff is Jonathan Tsipis, who was hired on May 13, 2003. Tsipis (pronounced SIP-iss) comes to Notre Dame following one season as the director of men’s basketball operations at UNC Greensboro, working under former Irish assistant coach Fran McCaffery.

Prior to arriving at UNC Greensboro, Tsipis spent two seasons as an assistant men’s coach at Elon (N.C.) University. While there, he worked primarily with the Phoenix’s perimeter players and also helped coordinate the team’s scouting and recruiting efforts. In addition, he was responsible for organizing the team’s travel plans and off-season workout programs.

Tsipis came to Elon after one year as the top assistant men’s coach at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y. He also spent three seasons on the men’s basketball staff at Cornell University (one as a full-time assistant, two as a volunteer aide), and one year as a student assistant men’s basketball coach at Duke University. In the latter role, he served under legendary Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and worked alongside current University of Missouri head men’s basketball coach Quin Snyder.

In addition to his coaching duties, Tsipis also serves as the President of the Future Hoopsters Basketball Camp which he founded in 1991. The four-week camp, which focus on specialized individual instruction, originated with 13 campers and now brings in over 100 each summer. He also worked at the Basketball Camp USA in Letahoria, Greece, in July of 2001. There, Tsipis worked clinics for top-ranked junior players from Greece and Macedonia, focusing on perimeter and ball handling skills.

A Cleveland, Ohio, native, Tsipis graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996 with a bachelor of science degree in Pharmacy. He and his wife, Leigh, reside in South Bend.

One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 85 of their last 92 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak from 1998-2002 (at the time, it was the 10th-longest string in NCAA history).

Notre Dame also has a 61-7 (.897) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 248-70 (.780) record at the venerable facility. In both the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. Also, since joining the BIG EAST prior to the 1995-96 season, Notre Dame is 98-9 (.916) at the Joyce Center.

For the third consecutive season, Notre Dame finished among the Top 10 in the nation in attendance for 2002-03. The Irish averaged 7,132 fans for their 13 home games last season, good for eighth in the final NCAA attendance rankings. Last season also saw Notre Dame register two of the top 10 crowds in school history, including a season-high gathering of 9,483 fans, the fifth-largest in school history for the nationally-televised matchup with Purdue on Jan. 4.

All of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 16-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present). And, as more evidence of Notre Dame’s rapid elevation to “hot ticket” status in South Bend, 19 of the top 20 crowds in school history have been recorded in the last four seasons.

Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2003-04 is more evidence of that fact. The Irish will play no less than 17 teams that qualified for postseason play last year, including 12 NCAA Tournament squads and six that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen (highlighted by two-time defending national champion Connecticut and NCAA runner-up Tennessee). In addition, six opponents (Connecticut, Old Dominion, Purdue, Tennessee, Valparaiso and Villanova) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conference. Furthermore, 19 of the 26 possible Irish opponents finished with records of .500 or better last season, including 12 squads that posted 20-win campaigns. All told, Notre Dame opponents had a combined winning percentage of .610 last season (490-313). With all of this in mind, Notre Dame’s 2003-04 schedule has been ranked 22nd in the nation, according to the preseason Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/Summerville RPI.

Based on its success in recent years, Notre Dame continues to be a favorable television draw and the 2003-04 season will be no exception. The Irish are slated to play on the small screen no less than seven times in the coming campaign, including three appearances on national television.

Notre Dame will make its ’03-04 television debut Dec. 7 at Washington in a matchup that will be shown to a national cable audience on Fox Sports Net. The Irish are back on coast-to-coast television Jan. 4 when they visit Purdue for the inaugural BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge. That contest will be shown live on ESPN2.

In addition, Notre Dame has been selected to appear on the BIG EAST Conference television package four times this season, including three home games. The Irish will take on Virginia Tech (Jan. 10), Villanova (Jan. 24) and Boston College (Jan. 31) at home and travel to Rutgers (Feb. 28) for games in front of the BIG EAST TV cameras. Those games may be seen on a regional basis in several major East Coast markets, including New York, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as South Bend, where WHME-TV will show the games on a delayed basis.

It also was recently announced that Notre Dame will make a third national TV appearance during the 2003-04 regular season. The Feb. 25 game between the Irish and Miami at the Joyce Center will be broadcast live by College Sports Television (CSTV) and will tip off at 8 p.m. (ET) — some early schedules initially had this game listed one hour earlier.

The semifinals of this year’s BIG EAST Championship presented by State Farm also will be broadcast on the BIG EAST television package Monday, March 8 at 6 and 8 p.m. (ET) from the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center. WHME-TV in South Bend will carry those games live. The championship game will air live on ESPN2 on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. (EST).

Senior guard Le’Tania Severe will serve as the lone captain for Notre Dame this season, marking her second consecutive year in that role. Severe is the 15th two-time captain in the program’s history and only the fourth solo captain the Irish have ever had. Ericka Haney was the last to lead Notre Dame on her own, doing so during the 2001-02 season.

After a two-year absence, the Joyce Center once again will be home to NCAA Tournament competition as Notre Dame was selected to be one of 16 sites for first- and second-round games in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Action at the South Bend subregional will take place Sunday, March 21 and Tuesday, March 23, with exact tipoff times and potential television broadcasts to be determined by the NCAA during the week leading up to the competition.

Should Notre Dame qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in school history (and the ninth consecutive season), the Irish are guaranteed to play at home. Notre Dame has played five NCAA tourney games at the Joyce Center in its history, going 4-1 and and advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2000 and 2001 (the Irish went on to win the national championship in the latter season).

Tickets for NCAA Tournament games at the Joyce Center currently are available only to Notre Dame season ticket holders, who have a priority option to purchase seats for the event. Tickets for the Sunday and Tuesday sessions will go on sale to the general public Monday, Dec. 1. Single-game tickets will not be made available until after the field of 64 is announced on March 14. For more information on how to purchase tickets for the 2004 NCAA Tournament at the Joyce Center, contact the Notre Dame ticket office at (574) 631-7356.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw tried her hand at writing during the past year and has co-authored a book with Bradley University professor Paul Gullifor entitled “Courting Success: Muffet McGraw’s Formula For Winning In Sports And In Life.” The book, which currently is in bookstores nationwide, touches on how, in the shadows of the nation’s most storied football program, McGraw has quietly built the women’s basketball program into a national power.

Women’s basketball has been one of the University’s most consistently successful varsity sport during the past 16 years, qualifying for the postseason 13 times, including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, five NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances and two Final Fours berths. The team’s rise to national prominence was then cemented with a national championship in 2001. In short, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program has been steadily built into a perennial national championship contender, and its architect for those 16 years has been McGraw. As the Irish head coach, the Pottsville, Pa., native has won 363 games at Notre Dame, has a stellar .725 winning percentage and was the consensus 2001 national Coach of the Year.

Personal accolades aside, McGraw has always been more concerned with off-court success than the progress of her teams. Accordingly, this book is a motivational and inspirational book in which she shares her ingredients for success — on and off the court. It provides lessons for those aspiring toward success in basketball, and in life, while illustrating why Muffet McGraw is one of college basketball’s most accomplished coaches.

Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season (additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date):

  • Nov. 9 vs. Team Concept — Schedule magnets to the first 3,000 fans
  • Dec. 4 vs. Wisconsin — Notre Dame player trading cards to the first 2,500 fans
  • Dec. 22 vs. USC — Holiday Celebration
  • Jan. 10 vs. Virginia Tech — Hawaiian Luau Day
  • Jan. 13 vs. Connecticut — Irish Celebration (blinking shamrocks to first 5,000 fans)
  • Jan. 24 vs. Villanova — Fiesta Day (Notre Dame sombreros to the first 2,000 fans)
  • Jan. 31 vs. Boston College — A Day Under The Big Top/Alumni Day
  • Feb. 14 vs. Providence — Disco Night
  • Feb. 25 vs. Miami — Courtney LaVere life-size growth charts to first 1,000 fans in attendance
  • March 2 vs. Syracuse — Senior Night/Cartoon Night (ND Beanie Bears to first 1,000 fans)

Notre Dame opens the 2003-04 regular season Friday at 6 p.m. (MT) against No. 25 Auburn in the opening round of the WBCA Classic at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo. The Tigers return all five starters from last year’s squad that posted a 23-11 record and won the WNIT Championship. Friday’s matchup will mark the first-ever meeting between the Irish and Auburn.

Depending on the outcome of Friday’s game, Notre Dame will play either host Colorado or Old Dominion Saturday in the consolation (6 p.m. MT) or championship game (8:15 p.m. MT) of the WBCA Classic. Colorado, which is ranked 20th in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, went 24-8 last season and like Notre Dame, the Buffaloes advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen before falling to Villanova. CU has three starters back from that team, including center Tera Bjorklund, a national honors candidate. Meanwhile, Old Dominion has three starters back from its 2002-03 club that logged a 21-11 record and qualified for the NCAA Tournament before losing to Boston College in the first round.