For the second year in a row, senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner was voted as the Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player, receiving the award at the 2009-10 women's basketball banquet held on Tuesday before a sold-out crowd of 600 fans at Purcell Pavilion.

Lechlitner Repeats As MVP At 2009-10 Women's Basketball Awards Banquet

April 13, 2010

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the second consecutive season, senior guard and tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) was selected as the recipient of the Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award, it was announced during the 2009-10 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Banquet on Tuesday evening at Purcell Pavilion. In addition, fellow senior guard Alena Christiansen (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) was a double honoree on Tuesday, as she was chosen to receive the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award, as well as a share of the team’s Spirit Award (an honor she also took home last season).

A sold-out crowd of 600 people was in attendance (the second-largest gathering in banquet history), as the Fighting Irish celebrated a magnificent `09-10 season that culminated with a 29-6 record (the third-highest win total in program history) and Notre Dame’s eighth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in the past 14 years, as well as a top-11 ranking in the final Associated Press (7th) and ESPN/USA Today (11th) polls.

In addition, the Fighting Irish recorded their seventh 25-win season in the past 14 years and 16th 20-win season in the past 17 years, not to mention its 18th consecutive winning season, 22nd in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era and 29th in the 33-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball. The Fighting Irish also ranked among the top 16 teams in the nation in eight NCAA statistical categories — steals (4th – 12.9 spg.), assists (6th – 18.1 apg.), turnover margin (9th – 6.29), assist/turnover ratio (10th – 1.11), scoring offense (11th – 77.2 ppg.), scoring margin (13th – 14.9 ppg.), won-loss percentage (14th – .829) and field goal percentage (16th – .454).

As if that weren’t enough, Notre Dame won the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division title, opened with a 15-game winning streak (the second-best start in program history), appeared in the top five of the Associated Press poll for 15 consecutive weeks, and set school records for steals (450) and turnovers forced (791), while also collecting six wins over ranked opponents (four coming away from home). Furthermore, the Fighting Irish finished a program-best fourth in the country in attendance this season with an average of 8,377 fans per game (easily the best in school history, surpassing the old mark of 7,825 in 2001-02), its 10th consecutive top-20 attendance ranking, and Notre Dame had six sellout crowds (and three others within 350 fans of a sellout) this year after having attracted a total of six sellouts in its first 32 seasons of competition.

Other honorees at Tuesday night’s banquet (as chosen by a vote of their teammates) included: senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington), who shared the team’s Defensive Player of the Year honor; sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic), who was tapped for the team’s Most Improved Player award; senior center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg), who shared the Spirit Award with Christiansen. In addition, fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) was voted by members of the South Bend media to receive the inaugural Woody Miller Player of the Year award, named in honor of the longtime South Bend Tribune reporter and women’s basketball beat writer Forrest “Woody” Miller, who passed away in February 2009.

Each member of the senior class, including student managers Tom Bacsik and Bryant Welters, also delivered moving speeches about their careers at Notre Dame, while a senior video tribute and the always-popular season highlight video capped off the evening’s festivities.

Notre Dame will have two starters and eight monogram winners returning next season, along with a three-player freshman class that was ranked eighth in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz, and 10th by both All-Star Girls Report and Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. It’s the 14th consecutive year that the Fighting 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 2009-10 Notre Dame women’s basketball award winners:

Melissa Lechlitner (Sr., G, Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) — Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP
Lechlitner follows in the footsteps of Charel Allen (2007, 2008) as a two-time Monogram Club MVP after successfully piloting Notre Dame to one of the most productive seasons in school history. Lechlitner led the team in assists (tied – 3.2 apg.), three-point percentage (.420) and free throw percentage (.849), setting new career highs in all three categories. A two-year team tri-captain, she also ranked among the team leaders in scoring (5th – 8.4 ppg.) and assist/turnover ratio (3rd – 1.27) while starting all 35 games and playing a team-high 1,030 minutes. With Lechlitner at the helm, Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game (11th in the nation) and 18.1 assists per game (sixth in the nation), while finishing an entire season with a positive assist/turnover ratio (1.11 – 10th in the nation) for the second time in school history, both in the past three seasons and both with Lechlitner on the roster.

For her career, Lechlitner ranks among the top 10 in school history for career games played (tied/2nd – 131), free throw percentage (6th – .800) and assists (6th – 388), and she became the 26th Fighting Irish player to score 1,000 career points, reaching that milestone in her final collegiate game with 22 points against Oklahoma in the NCAA Kansas City Regional semifinals on March 28.

Thanks to that effort in the Sweet 16, Lechlitner was named to the NCAA Kansas City Regional All-Tournament Team, adding to her selection earlier this season on the Paradise Jam Island Division All-Tournament Team. She also was an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Second Team selection after compiling a 3.38 cumulative grade-point average as a psychology major in the College of Arts and Letters.

Lindsay Schrader (5th Year Sr., G, Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) — Woody Miller Player of the Year (selected by media)
Schrader is the first-ever recipient of this media-selected award after closing out her brilliant career as one of only four players in school history with 1,400 points and 800 rebounds in their careers (joining Jacqueline Batteast, Katryna Gaither and Ruth Riley in that exclusive company). She also holds the school records for double-doubles by a guard in both a single season (seven in 2008-09) and a career (17) during a tenure that was extended to a fifth year after she missed the entire 2006-07 campaign with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee, an injury suffered on the fourth day of preseason practice.

A three-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection (including a two-time first-team honoree), Schrader also was named an Associated Press and State Farm Coaches’ honorable mention All-America selection this season after ranking among the team leaders in double-doubles (1st – six), rebounding (1st – 6.9 rpg.), scoring (2nd – 11.3 rpg.) and field goal percentage (3rd – career-high .540). She also scored in double figures in 22 games, including a season-high 18 points on three occasions.

A team tri-captain the past two seasons, Schrader ranks among the top 10 in school history in nine categories, including rebounds (6th – 828), games started (tied/2nd – 124), consecutive games started (6th – 73), field goals attempted (7th – 1,250), double-figure scoring games (tied/8th – 78), minutes per game (8th – 28.3), total minutes (9th – 3,620) and field goals made (tied/9th – 594). She also ranks 13th in school history with 1,429 points, just one point behind current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey (who also returned for a fifth season of eligibility in 2000-01 after suffering an ACL injury early in her freshman year of 1996-97).

Ashley Barlow (Sr., G, Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) — Defensive Player of the Year Award (co-recipient)
A two-time recipient of this award, Barlow recently completed a stellar career that saw her emerge as one of the most versatile players in Notre Dame women’s basketball history. She is the only Fighting Irish basketball player (male or female) to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 steals in her career under the Golden Dome, and she is one of only three Notre Dame women’s players to register at least 60 steals in four consecutive seasons, joining Coquese Washington (1989-93) and Ivey (1997-2001) in that elite club.

A two-year team captain, Barlow will graduate with a place among the top 10 on no fewer than 12 of Notre Dame’s career statistical charts, including scoring (9th – 1,492 points), three-pointers made (6th – 139), three-point attempts (6th – 403), steals (tied/3rd – 281), steals per game (4th – 2.16 spg.), free throws made (6th – 359), free throws attempted (tied/6th – 444), free throw percentage (5th – .809), games played (tied/5th – 130), minutes played (7th – 3,664), double-figure scoring games (tied/8th – 78) and minutes per game (tied/9th – 28.2). In addition, her career-high 80 steals this year are tied for the ninth-most in a single season in program history, while she made at least one three-pointer in the final 16 games of her career, good for the fourth-longest single-season run in school annals.

A three-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection (and two-time second-team all-league choice), as well as a 2010 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Coaches’ All-Region I honoree, Barlow led Notre Dame with a career-high 53 three-pointers this season, and ranked second on the team (seventh in the BIG EAST) with a .363 field goal percentage, just slightly below her career-high .364 three-point percentage from a year ago. That long range accuracy proved beneficial on April 1, when she finished second at the 22nd annual State Farm College 3-Point Championships in her hometown of Indianapolis, posting the best effort by a Fighting Irish women’s basketball player in the history of the event.

Skylar Diggins (Fr., G, South Bend, Ind./Washington) — Defensive Player of the Year Award (co-recipient)
Diggins joined Schrader as an AP and State Farm Coaches’ honorable mention All-America choice this year, in addition to earning second-team all-BIG EAST plaudits and a unanimous selection to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Those honors came following one of the finest rookie seasons in the 33-year history of Fighting Irish women’s basketball, with Diggins becoming the first freshman in 17 seasons to lead Notre Dame in scoring and the first Fighting Irish rookie in 16 years to top 100 assists in her debut season. What’s more, she finished as just the third player in program history (and the first freshman) to log 400 points, 100 assists and 75 steals in a single season, joining Ivey (2000-01) and Megan Duffy (2004-05) in achieving that distinction.

Diggins led Notre Dame in scoring (13.9 ppg.), steals (2.6 spg.) and assists (tied – 3.2 apg.) this season, while ranking third on the squad in three-point percentage (.350) and free throw percentage (.782). She also chalked up a team-high 24 double-digit scoring games, including seven 20-point outings, capped by a season-high 31 points against Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship on March 23 at Purcell Pavilion. That scoring effort was the highest ever recorded by a Fighting Irish rookie in NCAA postseason play, while her 13 field goals made tied the program record for an NCAA tournament game.

In 2009-10, Diggins set Notre Dame freshman records for steals (90), free throws made (111), free throws attempted (142) and minutes played (1,028), while ranking among the top five on the Fighting Irish rookie charts for points (3rd – 484), scoring average (tied/4th – 13.8 ppg.), field goals made (3rd – 169), field goals attempted (3rd – 385), three-point field goals made (4th – 35), three-point attempts (5th – 100), three-point percentage (5th – .350), assists (3rd – 112), steals per game (2nd – 2.6 spg.), games started (tied/2nd – 30), games played (2nd – 35) and minutes per game (5th – 29.4).

Natalie Novosel (So., G, Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) — Most Improved Player Award
Novosel appeared in all 35 games for Notre Dame this season, making the first four starts of her career and posting career highs in assists (61), steals (47), three-point percentage (.350) and free throw percentage (.761). She was one of five Fighting Irish players with at least 40 steals this season — part of the team’s record-setting 450 thefts in 2009-10 — and she also collected 5.0 points and 2.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game. She scored in double figures five times this season, with a season-high 12 points on three occasions (home games against Valparaiso, South Florida and Providence), and she registered at least three steals in seven different games.

Erica Williamson (Sr., C, Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg) — Spirit Award (co-recipient)
One of the veteran leaders on this year’s squad, Williamson appeared in 34 games, becoming a full-time starter late in the regular season and throughout the postseason. She ranked second on the team with a .602 field goal percentage (including a .700 mark in the postseason and a .727 ratio in the NCAA Championship) and she wound up third on the squad with 19 blocked shots. The quintessential teammate, Williamson made the most of her 12.1 minutes per game, averaging 4.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, including a season-high 16 points (and her first career three-pointer) in a BIG EAST Championship second-round win over Louisville in Hartford, Conn.

Williamson will depart Notre Dame ranked eighth on the school’s career blocked shot list (125) and tied for fifth on the Fighting Irish career games played chart (130). She also is poised to sign a training camp contract with the WNBA’s New York Liberty, which also featured former Notre Dame point guard Megan Duffy (’06) on its roster during the 2008 season — WNBA training camps open later this month.

Alena Christiansen (Sr., G, Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) — Spirit Award (co-recipient) / Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Despite playing less than two full seasons at Notre Dame, Christiansen endeared herself to her Fighting Irish teammates and the Notre Dame faithful, and will leave the University as one of the most beloved players in the program’s history, thanks to her inspiring blend of positive energy, passion, dedication and work ethic.

A walk-on guard and former practice player who actually began her stint with the program as a marketing aide and assistant summer camp director, Christiansen joined the active roster midway through the 2008-09 season when injuries trimmed the Notre Dame bench. During the ensuing 15 months, she played in 23 games, earning her first career start on Senior Night (Feb. 23, 2010, vs. Marquette).

This season, Christiansen saw action in 17 games, averaging a career-high 0.9 points and 0.7 rebounds per game in 3.1 minutes per contest. She scored a career-high five points in a Dec. 20 win over Charlotte, and grabbed a career-best two rebounds in the NCAA Championship second-round win over Vermont on March 23 at Purcell Pavilion.

In the classroom, Christiansen owns a 3.508 cumulative GPA as a marketing major in the Mendoza College of Business. She also was named to the dean’s list in the spring of 2009 after compiling a 3.75 semester GPA.

— ND —