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No. 10 Women's Basketball Tips Off Four-Game Road Trip At USC

Nov. 27, 2002

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(#10 AP/#10 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0) vs. USC Women of Troy (3-1)

The Date and Time:
Friday, Nov. 29, 2002, at 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST in South Bend).

The Site:
Los Angeles Sports Arena (15,509) in Los Angeles, Calif.

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

Real-Time Statistics:
Live in-game statistics are available for the USC game via the Notre Dame ( and USC ( athletics websites.

Notre Dame (, USC (


Over the next two weeks, 10th-ranked Notre Dame will embark on its longest regular-season road trip in four seasons, a four-game swing that will span three time zones. The first stop on the itinerary is a Friday night matchup with USC at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. That game is the first of two meetings between Notre Dame and USC sports teams this weekend < the=”” seventh-ranked=”” irish=”” football=”” team=”” will=”” take=”” on=”” the=”” sixth-ranked=”” trojans=”” saturday=”” night=”” at=”” the=”” los=”” angeles=”” coliseum.=””>

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team opened its 2002-03 season in grand style Tuesday night with a 107-65 win over Cleveland State at the Joyce Center. It was the first time the Irish had broken into triple digits in nearly four years, and it was the fifth-highest single-game scoring output in school history. In addition, Notre Dame put together its highest-scoring half of basketball ever, scoring 61 points in its first 20 minutes of the season to break a 12-year-old school record.

Sophomore forward Katy Flecky led five Irish players in double figures with a career-high 22 points and game-high eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast added 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists, flirting with Notre Dame’s first triple-double in almost 13 years. As a team, the Irish shot a sizzling 60 percent from the field and forced 31 Cleveland State turnovers.

USC comes into Friday night’s game with a 3-1 record after a run to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT. The Women of Troy already have wins over then-No. 18 Colorado State and last year’s Mountain West Conference runner-up New Mexico to their credit.

Sophomore Rachel Woodward leads three USC players averaging in double figures at 14.8 ppg. Junior Ebony Hoffman, a preseason Naismith Award candidate, is grabbing a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game for veteran head coach Chris Gobrecht, who is 67-79 (.459) in her sixth season at USC.

Notre Dame’s latest ascension to college basketball’s summit already is underway, thanks in large part to the nine returning monogram winners and three starters back from last season’s 20-10 club. Of the nine veterans back in the fold, only two are seniors, providing head coach Muffet McGraw with a rich blend of stability and experience upon which to build her next title contender.

McGraw now is in her 16th season at Notre Dame with a 343-127 (.730) record that includes 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament bids, four trips to the Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 national championship. Along the way, she has groomed seven All-Americans, 17 all-conference selections (including 10 first-team picks), seven players who have gone on to play professional basketball in the United States, and three USA Basketball National Team players (who have won a total of six medals). In addition, she has developed a knack for training outstanding coaches, with 15 of her former players and/or assistants currently coaching at the high school or college level, including five collegiate head coaches. She also has been a master recruiter, attracting seven consecutive top 20 classes, including this year’s freshman class, which was ranked eighth in the nation by Blue Star Basketball.

Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters already have received numerous preseason accolades. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (15.4 ppg., 5.5 rpg. in 2001-02) is a two-time Associated Press All-American and she is a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection this year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has seen her name sprinkled liberally througout the Notre Dame record book, including marks for scoring (9th, 1,379 points), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .477) and free throw percentage (1st, .868). In the latter two categories, Ratay’s shooting numbers are good enough to place her among the top 10 in NCAA history.

In addition, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (13.8 ppg., 7.8 rpg., 11 double-doubles) on the list of 30 candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding player. Batteast is the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year after turning in one of the finest rookie seasons in school history. Like Ratay, she also was a preseason first-team all-conference choice this year. Batteast nearly posted a triple-double in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Cleveland State, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists.

Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (6.6 ppg., 4.9 apg.), who quickly is developing into one of the top point guards in the BIG EAST. Last season, Severe capably filled the large shoes left by the graduation of All-American Niele Ivey, setting career highs in virtually every statistical category. She started this season with a bang as well, scoring 13 points and canning all three of her three-point tries vs. Cleveland State. Severe will be backstopped by freshman Megan Duffy, a crafty lefthander with a commanding floor presence and a smooth outside jumper. Duffy averaged 14 points and 5.8 assists per game last year as a senior at Dayton’s Chaminade-Julienne High School before tearing the ACL in her right knee midway through the campaign.

At the other guard position, sophomore Kelsey Wicks (4.7 ppg., 3.3 rpg.) offers a unique mix of outside shooting ability and toughness in the paint. The 6-2 native of Gillette, Wyo., connected at a 33-percent clip from the three-point line as a freshman, and she showed no fear in playing some of the nation’s elite teams, scoring in double figures on the road at Connecticut and Tennessee. She will be called upon to provide a scoring punch off the bench for McGraw this season.

Senior walk-on Karen Swanson (1.0 ppg., 0.5 rpg.), junior Jeneka Joyce (3.4 ppg., 1.5 rpg.) and sophomore Jill Krause (0.4 ppg., 0.3 rpg.) also will be counted on for support at the guard positions.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton (6.0 ppg., 4.8 rpg.) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (4.9 ppg., 3.3 rpg.) will team up with Batteast to produce a formidable front line for Notre Dame this season. The 6-3 Borton started the first six games of her college career last season and finished with two double-doubles and a team-best .497 field goal percentage. She turned in a solid performance in Notre Dame’s season opener, hitting her first six shots and finishing with 18 points in 18 minutes. Meanwhile, Flecky is widely considered to be the most improved player on the Notre Dame roster, after logging 10 points per game during her team’s tour of Europe last May. She started eight games last season, including the final seven in place of an injured Batteast, earning BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honors once. She already has displayed her improvement with a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds in Notre Dame’s win over Cleveland State.

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere also will see significant playing time on the blocks for the Irish this season. LaVere was a consensus prep All-American as a senior at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, all while shooting 57 percent from the field. The potential that the 6-3 LaVere brings to the table already has been noticed by at least one national media outlet. The website Women’s College has chosen the Irish rookie as one of its “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact” for the 2002-03 season. LaVere wasted little time in making an impact at the college level, coming off the bench to card 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Irish won their season opener over Cleveland State.


Contrary to the long-standing rivalry Notre Dame and USC have had on the football field (their 74th meeting is Saturday night), the two schools have a very short history on the hardwood. The Irish hold a 3-1 edge in the all-time series with the Women of Troy, including a 1-0 mark at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Notre Dame has won the last three games in the series, including a 62-49 victory in their most recent encounter last season (Dec. 9, 2001). In that matchup, the Irish forced a season-high 27 turnovers and limited USC to just 22 first-half points en route to the win. Jacqueline Batteast scored a game-high 19 points, while Le’Tania Severe tossed in a career-high 17 points for Notre Dame.

In their only other meeting in Los Angeles on Dec. 28, 2000, the Irish pulled out a 70-61 win over the Women of Troy. It proved to be a physical game, one that saw 54 fouls between the two clubs, but Notre Dame moved clear of USC behind 23 points from Ruth Riley and 12 points each from Alicia Ratay and Ericka Haney.

USC earned its only win over Notre Dame on Jan. 2, 1985, downing the Irish, 69-53 in a game played at Cal State Fullerton. Laura Dougherty scored 20 points and Trena Keys added 12 points for Notre Dame in a losing effort.

The Women of Troy are 3-1 on the season following a run to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT. USC defeated Northern Arizona in the opening round before upsetting No. 18 Colorado State, 59-58, in Fort Collins. Fourth-ranked Kansas State ended the WNIT title hopes for the Women of Troy with a 73-61 semifinal win in Manhattan, Kan., but USC bounced back well last Saturday with a 55-48 win at home over New Mexico. In all, the Women of Troy played four games in eight days in three different time zones, so the six days of rest they will have had leading into the Notre Dame contest couldn’t have come at a better time.

USC is led by junior forward Ebony Hoffman, a preseason Naismith Award candidate who played on the U.S. World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team last summer, helping that squad to a gold medal. Hoffman is second on the team in scoring early this season, averaging 11.8 points per game to go along with her team-best 7.8 rebounds per game. Junior guard Jessica Cheeks also has provided veteran leadership for the Women of Troy, shooting a team-high 44.3 percent from the field while averaging 11.5 ppg. Sophomore forward Rachel Woodward has been the third prong of USC’s offensive attack, logging a team-high 14.8 ppg. and 5.8 rpg. < she=”” also=”” hit=”” the=”” game-winning=”” three-point=”” field=”” goal=”” with=”” seven=”” seconds=”” left=”” to=”” beat=”” colorado=”” state.=””>

As a team, the Women of Troy have lived by the success of their defense, which has allowed opponents only 58.5 ppg. and has forced 114 turnovers (28.5 per game) this season. On the other side of the coin, USC’s offense has struggled at times, averaging only 59.5 ppg. while shooting 36.4 percent from the field and 16.3 percent from the three-point stripe.

The Women of Troy are coached by Chris Gobrecht, who is in her sixth season at USC and 24th season overall. A 1977 graduate of USC, she holds a 67-79 (.459) record with the Women of Troy and a 399-282 (.586) mark overall, a record which also includes stops at Cal State Fullerton (1980-85), Washington (1986-96) and Florida State (1997). She is 0-4 in her career against the Irish (0-3 at USC, 0-1 at Washington).


Notre Dame has one California resident < freshman=”” forward=””>Courtney LaVere (Ventura, Calif./Buena HS) < on=”” its=”” roster.=”” the=”” irish=”” will=”” add=”” a=”” second=”” native=”” of=”” the=”” golden=”” state=”” next=”” year=”” when=”” recent=”” signee=”” crystal=”” erwin=”” (santa=”” fe=”” springs,=”” calif./st.=”” paul=”” hs)=”” arrives=”” in=”” south=”” bend.=”” lavere=”” is=”” only=”” the=”” fourth=”” notre=”” dame=”” player=”” ever=”” to=”” come=”” from=”” california,=”” joining=”” christy=”” grady=”” (lodi,=”” calif.),=”” kristin=”” knapp=”” (santa=”” barbara,=”” calif.)=”” and=”” mickey=”” skieresz=”” (westlake=”” village,=”” calif.).=””>

USC junior forward Ebony Hoffman, Notre Dame sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast and Irish sophomore center Teresa Borton all attended the trials for the USA Basketball World Championship for Young Women Qualifying Team last May in Colorado Springs. Hoffman was selected for the team, while Batteast was named one of four alternates. In addition, Hoffman and Batteast both were chosen as candidates for the 2003 Naismith Award, joining Notre Dame senior guard Alicia Ratay on that elite list.

Eleventh-year Notre Dame women?s volleyball head coach Debbie (Landreth) Brown was twice named the national player of the year while helping USC win the 1976 and ?77 national championships in women?s volleyball. She recently guided the Irish to their seventh consecutive BIG EAST Conference title and her team will make its 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance next month. Brown also is a three-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year (1995, 2000, 2001) and she recently was selected to receive the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.

The Irish have a limited history against the Pacific-10 Conference, posting a 10-13 (.435) record against the league all-time. Notre Dame has played six of the 10 Pac-10 member schools, holding winning series records against Arizona (2-1), USC (3-1) and Washington (1-0). The Irish have never faced California, Oregon, Oregon State or Washington State.

Friday’s game is the first of two this season for Notre Dame at a Pac-10 institution. On Dec. 7, the Irish will visit Tempe, Ariz., to take on Arizona State in the AstraZeneca Hoops for the Cure Classic II. It will mark only the second all-time meeting between the Irish and Sun Devils and the first since ASU claimed an 82-57 win in Tempe back on Jan. 27, 1983.

Junior G Jeneka Joyce

leg injuries, out indefinitely

Notre Dame has been extremely successful in the month of November over the last seven seasons. Since the start of the 1995-96 campaign, the Irish are 26-5 (.839) in November games, including a an 12-0 mark at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for only the 10th time in school history with its 107-65 win over Cleveland State Tuesday night. It also was the first time the Irish had cracked triple digits since a 111-90 win over West Virginia on Jan. 7, 1999. The 107-point outburst vs. CSU equals the fifth-highest single-game scoring total in the 26-year history of the program. The only better scoring nights for the Irish were a school-record 113-35 win over Liberty in 1989, the aforementioned West Virginia game, and 109-point eruptions against Marquette in 1990 (109-56) and Providence in 1998 (109-60).

Senior guard Alicia Ratay will reach a milestone Friday night, playing in the 100th game of her Irish career. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has started 98 of her first 99 games for Notre Dame, yielding her starting spot to Imani Dunbar for Senior Night in 2001 (vs. Georgetown). Ratay’s 98 starts ranks 10th in school history, with Margaret Nowlin (100), Sandy Botham (101), current Irish assistant coach Letitia Bowen (102) and Mary Gavin (105) looming on the horizon.

Notre Dame had five players score in double figures in its 107-65 win over Cleveland State Tuesday night. It marked the first time the Irish had registered five double-digit nights since the 2001 Final Four, when all five Irish starters scored in double figures in a 90-75 win over Connecticut.

With 61 points in their first 20 minutes of the season vs. Cleveland State, the Irish broke the school record for points in one half. The previous mark was 59, set in the second period vs. Marquette on Dec. 21, 1990. During its opening barrage Tuesday night against CSU, Notre Dame made 20 of its first 28 shots from the floor and shot a blistering 63.4 percent in the half.

Notre Dame’s 42-point win over Cleveland State in Tuesday night’s season opener was its largest since a 98-49 drubbing of Alcorn State in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. It also was the largest winning margin for the Irish in their opening game since a 43-point victory over Illinois-Chicago (93-50) to tip off the 1993-94 campaign.

Several Notre Dame players turned in career performances in the win over Cleveland State. Sophomore forward Katy Flecky scored a career-high 22 points, hitting a career-best 8-of-14 shots. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast tallied 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists, almost becoming the first Irish player to record a triple-double since Sara Liebscher vs. Detroit on Feb. 15, 1990. Senior guard Karen Swanson also matched her career high with five points, hitting both of her shots, including a three-pointer.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay is on the threshold of several career milestones in 2002-03. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native is only one assist away from becoming just the fifth player in school history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in her career. She would be the second Irish player in three seasons to turn that trick, following Kelley Siemon, who completed the hat trick when she scored her 1,000th point in Notre Dame’s NCAA championship game win over Purdue in 2001. The others in this elite group are Beth Morgan (1993-97), Trena Keys (1982-86) and current Irish assistant coach Letitia Bowen (1991-95).

Ratay also is 38 three-point field goals away from breaking the Notre Dame career record of 249, currently held by Sheila McMillen (1995-99). Ratay has averaged more than 70 treys per season during her first three years at Notre Dame.

Two other milestones also are within Ratay’s reach. She ranks ninth on the Irish all-time scoring list with 1,379 points, but she needs only 210 counters to move into the top five on that chart, catching Keys (1,589 from 1982-86). In addition, Ratay has been one of the most durable players in school history, appearing in all 99 Irish games in her career and starting all but one (2001 Senior Night vs. Georgetown). She can break the Notre Dame career records for starts and games played with 28 starts and 35 games played this season.

Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.868) and three-point field goal (.477) percentages, records which currently rank among the top 10 in NCAA history. For a complete rundown of Ratay’s place in the Notre Dame record books, please see the charts on page 9 of these notes.

Notre Dame is ranked 10th in the latest Associated Press poll, marking the third consecutive week the Irish have appeared in the top 10 this season. The current No. 10 ranking represents the 44th week in which Notre Dame has been ranked in the Top 10 (two weeks in 1996-97, 16 in 1998-99, 15 in 1999-2000, 18 in 2000-01 and three in 2002-03).

Notre Dame also was ranked 10th in the preseason AP poll, marking the sixth time in the last seven seasons that the Irish were tapped in the initial AP survey of the year. It was the third time in the last four years that Notre Dame was ranked in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll < the=”” irish=”” were=”” seventh=”” in=”” the=”” first=”” 1999-2000=”” poll,=”” and=”” placed=”” sixth=”” in=”” the=”” 2000-01=”” preseason=”” poll.=””>

The Irish are ranked 10th in the most recent ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, marking their highest ascension in that poll since they claimed the top spot after their run to the national championship in 2001. Notre Dame checked at No. 12 in the preseason coaches poll, marking the third time in four seasons that the Irish appeared in the top 12 of that survey < they=”” were=”” ninth=”” in=”” 1999-2000=”” and=”” fifth=”” to=”” open=”” the=”” 2000-01=”” campaign.=””>

Notre Dame is slated to face four teams that are currently ranked in both major polls (No. 4/5 Tennessee, No. 5/4 Connecticut, No. 6/6 Purdue and No. 18/19 Boston College). In addition, nine other Notre Dame opponents presently are receiving votes in one or both of the major polls < arizona=”” state,=”” colorado=”” state,=”” depaul,=”” pittsburgh,=”” rutgers,=”” temple,=”” usc,=”” villanova=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech.=””>

The general consensus in most basketball circles is that Notre Dame will be a major player on the national scene in 2002-03. Seven different media outlets released their preseason rankings and the Irish have placed no lower than 16th in any of these polls. Four of those publications ranked Notre Dame in the top 10 in the country to begin this season < street=”” &=”” smith’s=”” (4th),=”” athlon=”” sports=”” (5th),=”” women’s=”” college=”””” (6th)=”” and=”” women’s=”” basketball=”” magazine=”” (7th).=”” the=”” other=”” preseason=”” rankings=”” came=”” from=”” the=”” women’s=”” basketball=”” news=”” service=”” (11th),=”” lindy’s=”” annual=”” (12th),=”” and=”” all-star=”” girls=”” report=”” (16th).=””>

Senior guard Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) have been named preseason candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Awards which are presented annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Naismith Awards program, now in its 35th 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.

For Ratay, this year’s selection to the Naismith Preseason Watch List is her third in as many seasons. The senior guard is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and ranks ninth on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,375 points. She also ranks among the top 10 in NCAA history in career three-point (.480) and free throw percentage (.867), and she is on the verge of breaking the school record for career three-point field goals made, needing just 38 treys to eclipse Sheila McMillen’s total of 249 from 1995-99.

Last season, Ratay was a first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection after finishing third in the conference in scoring at 15.4 points per game. She also averaged a career-high 5.5 rebounds per game and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record 88.2 percent of her charities. Ratay started every game for the Irish last season and has played in every Notre Dame game in her career, starting 97 of a possible 98 contests.

Batteast was named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America pick after averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in her rookie season at Notre Dame. The sophomore forward ranked second in the BIG EAST in rebounding and double-doubles (11) and fifth in blocked shots (1.38 bpg.), earning second-team all-conference honors along the way. She also was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and was a six-time conference Rookie of the Week in 2001-02. Batteast is one of only four sophomores to be named to the 2002-03 Naismith Preseason Watch List.

Notre Dame is one of only five schools to have more than one women’s basketball player named to the Naismith Preseason Watch List, joining Duke, Kansas State, LSU and Tennessee in that select group.

Over the last seven seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame?s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 102-2 (.981) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. The only times that notion didn?t come to pass were on Feb. 17, 2001 (Rutgers 54-53), and Feb. 26, 2002 (Villanova 48-45).

Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. Over the last seven seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 82-3 (.965) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998. Notre Dame added a win to this total in its season opener Tuesday night, routing Cleveland State, 107-65.

Notre Dame has two captains this season < senior=”” guard=””>Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and junior guard Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines, Fla.).They are the 34th and 35th different players to serve as captains for the Irish in the 26-year history of the program (not including the 1986-87 season, when captains were chosen on a game-by-game basis).

The 11 players on this year?s Notre Dame roster hail from nine different states, including two each from Illinois and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Washington and Wyoming. The all-time Notre Dame roster features players from 34 different states, including 23 during the Muffet McGraw era. Ironically, the most common home state on the Irish all-time roster < michigan=”” (14)=””>< is=”” not=”” represented=”” for=”” the=”” second=”” year=”” in=”” a=”” row,=”” although=”” assistant=”” coaches=”” (and=”” former=”” notre=”” dame=”” players)=””>Coquese Washington and Letitia Bowen both are Michigan natives.

This season, Notre Dame fans are seeing a pair of jersey numbers on the floor that are a bit uncommon in Irish colors. Freshman guard Megan Duffy has chosen to wear No. 13, becoming only the second Notre Dame player since 1986 to wear those digits. Danielle Green was the last to sport No. 13, doing so during her freshman season (1995-96). Prior to Green, no Irish player had worn that number since Trena Keys (1982-86).

In addition, freshman forward Courtney LaVere is wearing No. 41 this season, a number which has been modeled just once before by an Irish player. Imani Dunbar had that jersey number throughout her Notre Dame career from 1997-2001.

Irish teams turned in exceptional performances during the 2002 fall sports season. All six of Notre Dame’s fall sports (football, volleyball, men’s/women’s soccer, men’s/women’s cross country) qualified for postseason play, headlined by a third-place finish for the women’s cross country squad at the NCAA Championships. In fact, Notre Dame is the only school in the nation to have all six of its fall sports qualify for the postseason.

For the first time in its eight-year affiliation with the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame was picked to finish first in the preseason coaches’ poll that was released Oct. 24 at BIG EAST Media Day. The Irish shared top billing with defending national champion Connecticut, with each team earning seven first-place votes and 161 total points in the balloting. Boston College (143 points), Villanova (128 points) and Virginia Tech (110 points) round out the top five.

Individually, Notre Dame was the only school to place two players on the preseason all-BIG EAST first team. Senior guard Alicia Ratay earned Associated Press honorable mention All-America honors for the second time in her career last season, and was a first-team all-conference selection. She is the top returning scorer for the Irish, averaging 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in ’01-02. She also led the BIG EAST and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record .882 from the charity stripe. Ratay also has been named one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award, her third selection in as many seasons.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast also was recognized by the conference coaches after being named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association National Freshman of the Year. The South Bend native averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, and was a unanimous selection as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. She also registered 11 double-doubles (second in the conference) and was a second-team all-league selection, the only freshman to make an all-BIG EAST squad in ’01-02. In addition, Batteast was a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America selection last year and like Ratay, she has been chosen as one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected as one of 30 candidates for the second annual Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to the nation?s senior Player of the Year by the Senior CLASS Organizing Committee. Ratay is one of three BIG EAST Conference student-athletes on the list of Senior CLASS Award ?Players to Watch,? joining Villanova?s Trish Juhline and Brianne Stepherson of Boston College. Connecticut guard Sue Bird received the inaugural award last year.

Ratay is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection last season. She ranks ninth in school history with 1,375 points and is among the top perimeter shooters in the country, connecting at a school-record .480 clip from behind the three-point line in her career. She also has made a school-record 86.7 percent of her free throws at Notre Dame, and both her free throw and three-point percentages currently stand among the top 10 in NCAA history.

Ratay also is an exemplary student, owning a 3.46 cumulative grade-point average while pursuing a double major in psychology and education. She has been named to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team each of the last three years, and she has garnered Dean?s List honors three times.

The Senior CLASS Award < the=”” acronym=”” stands=”” for=”” celebrating=”” loyalty=”” and=”” achievement=”” for=”” staying=”” in=”” school=””>< is=”” based=”” on=”” a=”” number=”” of=”” factors,=”” the=”” most=”” important=”” being=”” that=”” the=”” recipient=”” must=”” have=”” exhausted=”” their=”” four=”” years=”” of=”” eligibility=”” and=”” have=”” fulfilled=”” their=”” commitment=”” to=”” their=”” respective=”” university.=”” in=”” addition,=”” the=”” recipient=”” must=”” be=”” working=”” toward=”” their=”” degree,=”” be=”” in=”” good=”” academic=”” standing=”” and=”” be=”” of=”” sound=”” moral=”” character.=”” the=”” award=”” was=”” developed=”” last=”” season=”” in=”” response=”” to=”” the=”” recent=”” trend=”” of=”” college=”” basketball=”” players=”” leaving=”” early=”” to=”” turn=”” professional.=””>

The performances of the 30 ?Players to Watch? will be tracked during the season, and from that pool of players, a group of 10 finalists will be selected by a national committee of sportscasters and sportswriters that cover Division I college basketball. The finalists then will appear on the official ballot which will be voted upon in March by the national media committee and Division I college basketball coaches. The winner will be announced during the Women?s Final Four April 6-8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Courtney LaVere was a consensus All-America selection and one of the top 25 prep players in the country following her senior season at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif. One media outlet believes LaVere will continue that success in her initial campaign at Notre Dame. Women’s College has chosen the 6-3 freshman forward as one of the website’s “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact” for the 2002-03 season.

LaVere joins the Irish after averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during her senior season. She finished her high school career with 1,897 points (second in school history), 1,029 rebounds (third in school history) and 303 blocks (first in school history). She also holds school single-game records for points (45) and blocks (9), as well as BHS single-season marks for points (741), scoring average (26.5) and blocks (99).

LaVere was named the 1999 California Freshman of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, and she helped lead Buena to the top spot in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings for much of the 2000-01 season.

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 77 of their last 80 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak (10th-longest in NCAA history) from 1998-2002. Notre Dame also has a 56-4 (.933) 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. Besides the Wildcats, Connecticut (three times) is the only other BIG EAST school to successfully conquer the Irish on their home floor.

Nevertheless, Notre Dame still owns a 30-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center that dates back nearly six years < a=”” stretch=”” that=”” includes=”” victories=”” over=”” a=”” trio=”” of=”” sixth-ranked=”” teams=”” (ucla=”” and=”” duke=”” in=”” 1998-99=”” and=”” purdue=”” in=”” 2000-01),=”” as=”” well=”” as=”” 25th-ranked=”” illinois=”” in=”” 8-99.=”” notre=”” dame?s=”” last=”” non-conference=”” loss=”” at=”” home=”” came=”” back=”” on=”” dec.=”” 9,=”” 1996,=”” when=”” 19th-ranked=”” wisconsin=”” toppled=”” the=”” irish,=”” 81-69.=””>

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center. The Irish own a 240-66 (.784) 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 in 1995-96, Notre Dame is 90-5 (.947) at the Joyce Center.

For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame finished among the top 10 in the nation in attendance for 2001-02. The Irish averaged a school-record 7,825 fans for their 14 home games last season, good for eighth in the final NCAA attendance rankings. Last season also saw Notre Dame register 13 of the top 20 crowds in school history, including a gathering of 9,676 fans, the third-largest in school annals, for the Feb. 10 win over No. 16 Boston College.

Furthermore, all of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 15-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 three seasons.

Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2002-03 is no exception. The Irish will play no less than 14 teams that qualified for postseason play last year, including nine NCAA Tournament teams (highlighted by defending national champion Connecticut and Final Four participant Tennessee). In addition, six opponents (Arizona State, Connecticut, Purdue, Temple, Tennessee and Valparaiso) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conference. Furthermore, 17 of the 24 Irish opponents finished with records of .500 or better last season, including 10 squads that posted 20-win campaigns.

With all of this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Notre Dame’s schedule has been ranked 26th in the nation in the preseason Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/Summerville RPI rankings. On its own, the Irish non-conference docket is ranked 16th in the country.

Notre Dame will get a good deal of face time in 2002-03, playing on television at least six times, including nationally-televised contests against Arizona State (Dec. 7 on Fox Sports Net), Purdue (Jan. 4 on CBS) and Connecticut (Jan. 20 on ESPN2). In addition, Notre Dame will appear three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Miami (Jan. 11, noon ET) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 25, noon ET) and Virginia Tech (Feb. 9, 2 p.m. ET). All three of those games will be telecast in South Bend on WHME-TV on a tape-delayed basis as part of the league?s TV deal. The BIG EAST tournament semifinals on March 10 also will be aired on the BIG EAST TV package, while the conference championship game on March 11 will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game will air on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and WDND sports director Sean Stires is now in his third season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics website ( by subscribing to Fighting Irish Pass, which gives listeners full access to a wide variety of Irish events on radio for only $6.95 per month.

Muffet McGraw?s half-hour, weekly television show is produced by LeSea Broadcasting and hosted by Bob Nagle. The show, now in its fifth season, is carried by WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and will air at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturdays beginning December 14. The show also is available via satellite (Galaxy 6, Transponder 15) each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (EST), and may be seen on LeSea Broadcasting stations in Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Tulsa (check local listings).

University of Notre Dame women?s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 14 that two of the nation?s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2003. Crystal Erwin, a 6-2 forward from St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and Susie Powers, a 5-11 guard from Highlands Ranch High School in Denver, Colo., will join the Irish for the 2003-04 campaign.

Erwin has averaged 22.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game during her three-year prep career at St. Paul. She holds the school records for career points (2,084) and rebounds (1,324), as well as single-season points (869) with one year still to play for the Swordsmen. Ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report, Erwin was named to the 2002-03 USA Today Preseason Super 25 Team, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s All-America pick, earning third-team honors last season. She also has been named to all-star teams at the adidas Top Ten Camp each of the last two years and she was a member of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team this past summer. Erwin is the second California native in as many seasons to commit to the Irish, following current Notre Dame freshman Courtney LaVere.

Powers averaged 11.5 points and 6.8 assists per game last season for perennial national power Highlands Ranch High School, which won its third consecutive Colorado Class 5A title last season and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the campaign according to the USA Today Super 25 poll. Powers was ranked as high as 12th in the nation by the Greg Swaim Basketball Report, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-America selection. She also was Erwin’s teammate on the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team in the summer of 2002. In addition to Erwin, Powers will have some familiarity with another Irish player — she played with sophomore forward Katy Flecky at Highlands Ranch in 2000, helping lead the Falcons to the first of their three straight state championships.

With the addition of Erwin and Powers, Notre Dame has its seventh consecutive top 20 recruiting class, according to Blue Star Basketball, which rated the newest Irish signees 16th in the nation.

University of Notre Dame women?s basketball coach Muffet McGraw was one of seven people inducted into the Saint Joseph?s (Pa.) University Athletics Hall of Fame Nov. 16 in Philadelphia. McGraw was a standout point guard for Saint Joseph?s during its first four years of varsity competition, serving as team captain during her final two seasons (1975-76 and 1976-77). She helped lead the Hawks to an 18-3 record as a junior and a third-place finish in the AIAW Eastern Regional Tournament. A year later, she guided SJU to a 23-5 record, a sixth-place finish at the AIAW National Tournament, and a No. 3 national ranking in the Associated Press poll, the highest year-end poll finish in school history. She also set the Saint Joseph?s single-season record for steals with 102 during the 1976-77 campaign.

McGraw graduated from SJU in 1977 with a bachelor?s degree in sociology. She played one season for the California Dreams in the Women?s Professional Basketball League (WBL) before beginning her college coaching career as an assistant coach at her alma mater from 1980-82. Following five successful seasons at Lehigh (1983-87), McGraw was named the head coach at Notre Dame, a position she has held ever since.

Now in her 16th year with the Irish, McGraw has posted a stellar 343-127 (.730) record, guiding Notre Dame to 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament berths, four Sweet Sixteen visits, two Final Fours and the 2001 NCAA title. The 2001 Naismith and AP National Coach of the Year, McGraw also is a member of the SJU Women?s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame.

When she’s not diligently working with the Notre Dame women?s basketball team, assistant coach Coquese Washington spends the offseason playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). A six-year veteran point guard, Washington guided the Indiana Fever to their first-ever playoff berth this past summer, following her midseason trade from the Houston Comets.

During the course of the 2002-03 college basketball season, will feature regular interviews and chat sessions with Washington. Readers will get an inside look at how she successfully handles the challenges of being a collegiate assistant, while also remaining prepared for the next professional basketball season.

A potential matchup of Top 10 teams is on the horizon when Notre Dame and Tennessee tangle Dec. 28 at 1 p.m. (EST) at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Tickets still remain for this battle of college basketball powers — $14 for lower level seats, and $10 for club level seats. Fans can also register to attend a post-game “Meet ‘N Greet” with Indiana Fever standouts Tamika Catchings (Tennessee ’01) and Niele Ivey (Notre Dame ’01), as well as purchase discounted tickets for the NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Hornets which will follow at 7 p.m. (EST).

For more information on this game, or to buy tickets, call the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office at (317) 917-2500, or visit the Conseco Fieldhouse website at

Last May, the Irish embarked on a 12-day tour of Italy and France, going 3-1 in a four-game series against Italian professional teams. Among the Notre Dame victories was an 82-76 conquest of 14-time Italian First Division champion Pool Comense 1872, which had won its latest league title only two weeks prior to playing the Irish.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast and sophomore guard Kelsey Wicks shared team-high scoring honors on the tour, averaging 14.8 points per game during the series. Batteast, the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year, also registered two double-doubles and carded 11.3 rebounds per game while in Europe.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton collected team-high rebounding laurels, averaging 12.3 boards per contest. She also posted double-figure rebounding totals in three of four games, finishing with nine caroms in her other outing. Like Batteast, she averaged a double-double, adding 10 points per night.

All told, five Irish players scored in double figures while in Europe < the=”” aforementioned=”” trio,=”” along=”” with=”” junior=”” guard=””>Le’Tania Severe (13.5 ppg.) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (10.0 ppg.). As a team, Notre Dame averaged 79.5 points and 51.3 rebounds per game during the trip.

Notre Dame will return to the state of Indiana, but stays on the road to continue its four-game trip Wednesday at Valparaiso. The Crusaders return six letterwinners and three starters this season and is 1-1 to date, with a road game at No. 12 Texas Tech (Nov. 27) and home contests with Concordia (Nov. 30) and Navy (Dec. 1) looming before Notre Dame comes to town.