April 7, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team is ranked 20th in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll of the 2003-04 season, which was released Wednesday afternoon. It marks the eighth time in the last nine years that the Irish have appeared in the season-ending coaches’ poll, which comes out following the NCAA championship game.
Notre Dame posted a 21-11 record in ’03-04, including a 12-4 record in the BIG EAST Conference, good for a second-place tie in the final league standings. The Irish then advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the sixth time in eight seasons with wins over Southwest Missouri State (69-65, ot) and Middle Tennessee (59-46) before being nosed out by top-seeded Penn State (55-49) in the East Regional semifinals. Still, Notre Dame is one of only five schools to make six trips to the regional semifinals since 1997, and the Irish are one of just six teams who have won 20-or-more games in each of the last 11 seasons.
Notre Dame played a rugged schedule in 2003-04, going 3-4 against seven teams that were ranked in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll – #1 Connecticut (W, 66-51), #2 Tennessee (L, 83-59), #6 Penn State (L, 55-49), #9 Purdue (L, 76-63), #14 Boston College (W, 52-50), #23 Auburn (W, 77-64) and #24 Colorado (L, 67-63, ot). The Irish also logged a 7-4 record against nine opponents that received votes in the year-end coaches’ balloting – Michigan State (L, 92-63), Virginia Tech (W, 53-40), Marquette (W, 72-64), Middle Tennessee (W, 59-46), Villanova (W, 38-36), Southwest Missouri State (W, 69-65, ot), Miami (W, 59-50; W, 93-58), Rutgers (L, 69-55; L, 51-45) and West Virginia (L, 64-51).
Notre Dame will have four starters and eight monogram winners returning to the fold next season, led by All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast and the ’03-04 BIG EAST Most Improved Player, guard Megan Duffy. In addition, the Irish will welcome three talented incoming freshmen who make up the nation’s 14th-ranked recruiting class, according to Blue Star Index. Notre Dame is one of only three schools in the country to attract a Top 20 recruiting class in each of the last eight years.
— ND —