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Women's Basketball Opens Season Sunday Against Valparaiso

Nov. 17, 2001

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Eight months after putting the final touches on its first national championship, Notre Dame will prepare to start another assault on college basketball’s summit when it plays host to instate rival Valparaiso at 1 p.m. (EST) Sunday in the Joyce Center. Prior to opening their 25th anniversary season, the Irish will pay one last tribute to last year’s title-winning squad when the NCAA championship banner is raised to the rafters.

If the two exhibition games have been any indications, a bright future lies ahead for Notre Dame. The Irish closed out preseason play with a convincing 87-39 win over Division II entity Christian Brothers last Tuesday night at the Joyce Center. For the second consecutive outing, junior guard Alicia Ratay led all scorers with 20 points in 21 minutes, going seven-for-nine from the field, including four-for-five from three-point range. Freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast almost mirrored Ratay’s point-a-minute production, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes of action.

The Irish also displayed impressive depth against Christian Brothers, getting 34 points from their reserves, including 13 markers from freshman forward Katy Flecky on six-of-nine shooting. Another rookie, Kelsey Wicks, continued her strong preseason work on the glass, grabbing 10 rebounds for the second time in as many outings.

Notre Dame put CBU in a major hole early on, racing out to a 17-0 lead less than seven minutes into the contest. The Irish bumped the lead up to 41-12 at the half behind a solid defensive effort that limited the Lady Buccaneers to only four field goals and 13.8 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.

Christian Brothers shot better in the second half, but so did Notre Dame, to the tune of 61.3 percent from the field (19-31). A 23-4 run early in the period doused any hopes of a comeback by CBU and assured the Irish of their 11th consecutive exhibition victory, dating back to 1996.


Notre Dame looks to write a new chapter in its rapidly-developing history as the Irish defend their first NCAA championship in 2001-02. Seven monogram winners, including two starters, return from last season’s title-winning squad, giving head coach Muffet McGraw a broad foundation from which to build this year. In addition, the Irish welcome six talented freshmen to the fold, a group heralded as perhaps the finest recruiting class in school history and ranked as high as third by several national publications.

McGraw is in her 15th year at Notre Dame with a 322-117 (.733) record and has led the Irish to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances and eight overall. She was a near-unanimous choice as national coach of the year in 2000-01, winning top honors from the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Award), Associated Press, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and Sports Illustrated for Women. She also was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year, marking the third different conference to recognize McGraw as its top skipper since she took the reins at Notre Dame in 1987.

Both of Notre Dame’s returning starters have already been honored by the BIG EAST coaches in their preseason balloting. Senior guard/forward Ericka Haney (11.0 ppg., 5.7 rpg. in 2000-01) was a second team preseason all-conference pick and brings explosive quickness and versatility to the Irish lineup, along with veteran leadership. As Notre Dame’s only captain, she will be called upon to assume a greater mantle of responsibility in ’01-02. Junior guard Alicia Ratay (12.9 ppg., 5.1 rpg.) was a first team preseason all-BIG EAST choice and is one of 30 finalists for the Naismith Award after setting an NCAA record for three-point percentage (.547) last season. She got off to a solid start in the preseason, scoring 20 points in both exhibition games and shooting a blistering 75 percent (8-12) from three-point land.

Joining Ratay in the backcourt will be sophomore Le’Tania Severe (1.9 ppg.), who was hampered by injuries last season, appearing in just 22 games, but has confidently taken control of the Irish offense in the exhibition season, averaging seven assists per game in wins over the OGBM Legends and Christian Brothers. Juniors Monique Hernandez (2.6 ppg.) and walk-on Karen Swanson, along with sophomore Jeneka Joyce (5.2 ppg.) will give McGraw tremendous flexibility in her guard rotation. Additionally, freshmen Allison Bustamante, Jill Krause and Kelsey Wicks provide the Irish with solid ballhandling and perimeter shooting depth. Wicks showed an early penchant for attacking the glass, collecting 10 rebounds in both Irish exhibition games.

A pair of freshmen (and former Parade All-Americans) are poised to make an immediate impact on the Notre Dame front line, as forward Jacqueline Batteast and center Teresa Borton started both exhibition tilts and are slated to be in the lineup for the season opener against Valparaiso. Batteast was named the 2001-02 preseason BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and her combination of speed, athleticism and perimeter shooting ability already make her a valuable weapon in the Irish arsenal. At 6-3, Borton is a smooth and versatile post player with excellent mobility and a solid defensive presence. She nearly logged a double-double in her first outing, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds against the OGBM Legends. Junior Amanda Barksdale (1.4 ppg., 1.7 bpg.) was one of the nation’s top shot blockers last season but missed both exhibition games with a stress reaction in her right leg, while freshman Katy Flecky was a two-time Miss Colorado Basketball and offers the Irish an physical presence in the post. Flecky also displayed a deft shooting touch against Christian Brothers, canning six of nine shots and finishing with 13 points.


There may not be another team in the nation that will face as tough an opening week punch as Valparaiso. The Crusaders not only open with defending national champion Notre Dame on Sunday, but then they turn around and travel to West Lafayette, Ind., on Tuesday for a clash with NCAA runner-up Purdue. Needless to say, Valparaiso should be battle-tested by the time the Mid-Continent Conference season rolls around.

The Crusaders have nine letterwinners and all five starters back from last year’s club, which posted a 7-22 record and placed eighth in the MCC. Leading the Valpo parade is 6-5 Dutch center Marlous Nieuwveen, who averaged 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52.4 percent from the field for the Crusaders a year ago. Also back in the fold for eighth-year head coach Keith Freeman are guard Jeanette Gray (13.1 ppg., 6.3 rpg.) and senior forward Amber Schober (11.9 ppg., 5.8 rpg., .526 FG%).

It has been two weeks since Valparaiso played its lone exhibition game, a 68-56 loss to the Reebok Lady Stars on Nov. 4. Nieuwveen was up to her old tricks against the Lady Stars, picking up a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Schober and senior guard Sara McIntosh added 12 points each, with Schober tacking on eight rebounds for the Crusaders.


Notre Dame has held a decisive advantage in the all-time series with Valparaiso, winning all 14 games with the Crusaders, including a 6-0 mark at the Joyce Center. The two teams last met in the 2000-01 season opener, with the Irish claiming a 71-46 win at the Athletics-Recreation Center in Valparaiso. Alicia Ratay dumped in a game-high 20 points, including six three-point field goals, to lead Notre Dame, and Niele Ivey tallied her first double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 assists.Gray paced the Crusaders with 14 points, while Nieuwveen had 13 points and nine rebounds.


* The Irish would move to 15-0 all-time against Valparaiso, continuing the longest undefeated streak against one opponent in school history.

* Notre Dame would win its season opener for the seventh consecutive season, and would improve to 17-8 all-time in season lidlifters, including a 12-3 mark in the Muffet McGraw era.

* The Irish would extend their home winning streak to 39 games, the second longest active string in the nation behind Kent State (43).

* Notre Dame would pick up its 24th consecutive non-conference win at home, and would raise its record at the Joyce Center since the start of the 1995-96 season to a sparkling 77-4 (.951).


Out – Junior C Amanda Barksdale …… Out 7-10 days (stress reaction – right leg)


Notre Dame will try to continue its recent success in season openers Sunday against Valparaiso. The Irish have won their last five season lidlifters and 11 of 14 openers under head coach Muffet McGraw. Notre Dame is 16-8 (.667) all-time in season openers and has not lost the first game of the season since its final season in the Mid-Continent Conference, when the Irish dropped a 65-60 overtime loss to future BIG EAST Conference sister (and 25th-ranked) Seton Hall on Nov. 26, 1994.


Notre Dame has been extremely successful in the month of November over the last six seasons. Since the start of the 1995-96 campaign, the Irish are 23-3 (.885) in November games, including a current five-game winning streak. The last time Notre Dame lost a game in November was Nov. 27, 1999, when No. 15 Illinois upset the sixth-ranked Irish, 77-67, in Champaign, Ill.


Prior to its season opener against Valparaiso on Sunday, Notre Dame will recognize its 2001 NCAA championship team and raise the national title banner to the rafters at the Joyce Center. It will hang alongside the 1997 NCAA Final Four banner earned by the Irish, symbolic of Notre Dame’s first national championship in women’s basketball. Among those expected to take part in the pregame ceremony is 2001 national player of the year Ruth Riley, who is now playing for the WNBA’s Miami Sol.


Notre Dame will have a decidedly youthful look in its starting lineup when it opens the season on Sunday against Valparaiso, as freshmen Jacqueline Batteast and Teresa Borton are expected to get the nod at forward and center, respectively. In doing so, the pair will be first rookie tandem in 20 years to start a season opener for the Irish – Ruth Kaiser and Mary Beth Schueth cracked the starting five in a 78-44 win over St. Joseph’s (Ind.) on Dec. 2, 1981.

Both Batteast and Borton were in the Irish lineup for their two exhibition victories, with Batteast averaging 12.5 ppg. and 8.0 rpg., and Borton collecting 11.0 ppg. and 7.5 rpg., in addition to a solid 55.6 percent from the field (10-18).

Batteast, a 6-1 native of South Bend, was a consensus All-American as a senior at Washington High School after averaging 26.0 ppg., 16.0 rpg. and 4.4 bpg. She also has been chosen as the 2001-02 BIG EAST Conference Rookie of the Year. Borton joined Batteast as a Parade All-America selection last season at West Valley High School in Yakima, Wash., where the 6-3 post player rang up 17.9 ppg. while leading her school to the Class 3A state title.


In its two exhibition games this season, Notre Dame displayed an extraordinary amount of depth, as 11 different players saw action in each preseason tilt. The Irish also received solid support from their reserve units, picking up an average of 29.0 points per game off the bench in wins over Ohio Girls’ Basketball Magazine and Christian Brothers. Leading the charge for the Notre Dame reserves was freshman guard Kelsey Wicks, who snared 10 rebounds in both exhibition games. Freshman forward Katy Flecky also turned in a strong performance against Christian Brothers, scoring 13 points (6-0 shooting) and grabbing six rebounds in an understudy role.


Notre Dame is ranked 14th in the latest ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll, marking the 58th consecutive week in which the Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll, extending a school-record streak which dates back to the beginning of the 1998-99 season. This string has been highlighted by a six-week stay atop the rankings last season and a year-end finish at No. 1. Notre Dame also was ranked 15th in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll, the 54th consecutive week in which the Irish have appeared in the media poll.


Notre Dame junior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected as a preseason candidate for the 2001-02 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award. It marks the second time in as many seasons that Ratay has been named to the 30-player preseason Naismith watch list.

Ratay averaged 12.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season, and set an NCAA record for three-point percentage (54.7 percent) on the way to third-team all-BIG EAST Conference honors – she was the only sophomore to make any of the three all-league squads. Ratay also is a former BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and was named an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press in 2000. She will be looking to follow in the footsteps of her former teammate, Ruth Riley, who won the 2000-01 Naismith Award, becoming the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to be so recognized.

The Naismith Awards, in their 34th year, are given in honor of the inventor of the game of basketball – Dr. James Naismith. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The Awards, including Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year, Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year, Male and Female Prep Player of the Year and Men’s and Women’s Official of the Year, are determined by a vote of the Naismith Board of Selectors. In addition, the Board of Selectors, comprised of a select group of leading basketball coaches, journalists and administrators, honors a Men’s and Women’s Outstanding Contributor to Basketball. The 2001-02 Naismith Award will presented April 5, 2002 in Atlanta.


Fresh off a share of their first-ever BIG EAST championship last season, the Irish have been picked to finish second in 2001-02 according to a preseason poll of the league’s coaches which was released at BIG EAST Media Day on Oct. 25. Notre Dame claimed two first-place votes and 155 points overall, trailing only Connecticut (11 first-place votes, 167 points). Rutgers, Boston College and Villanova round out the top five, with VU picking up the remaining first-place vote.

Individually, junior guard Alicia Ratay was a first team preseason all-BIG EAST selection after earning third-team honors last year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native set an NCAA record for three-point percentage last season (.547) and is the top returning scorer for the Irish in 2001-02 after charting 12.9 points per game a year ago.

Senior guard/forward Ericka Haney also was recognized by the conference coaches, earning second team preseason all-BIG EAST laurels. She joins Ratay as one of two starters back from last year’s NCAA championship squad and averaged 11 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. during the ’00-01 campaign.

In addition, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast was chosen as the preseason BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. It’s the latest in a series of early-season honors for the South Bend, Ind., product, who also has been named a first team freshman All-American by the Women’s Basketball News Service and has been tabbed as one of the Top 21 “New Players of Impact” by Women’s College


This season, for only the fourth time in school history, Notre Dame will have just one captain – senior guard/forward Ericka Haney. She is the first solo captain for the Irish since Sheila McMillen in 1998-99 and the second in head coach Muffet McGraw’s 15-year tenure.


The 13 players on this season’s Notre Dame roster hail from 10 different states, including two each from Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. The all-time Notre Dame women’s basketball 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 on this season’s roster.


This season, Notre Dame fans will see a pair of jersey numbers on the floor that haven’t made an appearance in quite some time. Freshman guard Kelsey Wicks has chosen to wear No. 24, becoming the first Irish player since Andrea Alexander (1990-94) to sport those digits. In addition, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast is wearing No. 21 this season, a number which has not been modeled by an Irish player since All-American Beth Morgan wore the same jersey from 1993-97. Prior to Morgan, the last Notre Dame player to wear No. 21 was current Irish assistant coach Coquese Washington, who had the number from 1989-93.


Notre Dame will be looking to extend some impressive streaks in 2001-02. The Irish have won a school-record 38 consecutive games at home, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Kent State’s 43-game run. In fact, the Irish have not lost at home in nearly three years, dating back to a loss to top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 8, 1998. Notre Dame also has a 49-3 (.942) record in BIG EAST games at the Joyce Center, with Connecticut the only league team to solve the Irish at home.

Notre Dame also sports a four-year, 23-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center – a streak 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 ’98-99. Notre Dame’s last non-conference loss at the Joyce Center came way back on Dec. 9, 1996, when 19th-ranked Wisconsin toppled the Irish, 81-69. Overall, the Irish are 63-2 (.969) at the Joyce Center in their last 65 home games, with the only losses coming to Connecticut.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center. The Irish own a 226-65 mark for a .777 winning percentage since that first season. Last year, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 for the second year in a row. The 15 victories are a school record for home wins in a season and the first time Notre Dame teams have been undefeated at home during the regular season. During the last five-plus seasons, Muffet McGraw’s squad is 76-4 (.950) at the Joyce Center.


Attendance at Notre Dame women’s basketball games in 2000-01 increased nearly 88 percent compared to the previous season – and indications suggest another significant jump is in order for the 2001-02 campaign. Coming off the 2001 NCAA championship, there already have been more than 6,700 season tickets sold to the general public and University faculty and staff for the ’01-’02 women’s basketball season. That’s compared to 2,700 a year ago and 940 in 1999-2000- a jump of nearly 150 percent over last season, and a whopping 700 percent rise in just two years.

The sale of season tickets for the ’01-02 campaign actually began midway through Notre Dame’s 2001 championship season. All seats are reserved for Irish women’s games for the first time this season – all seating in previous years had been general admission.

The Irish ranked 10th nationally in attendance last year at 6,376 fans per game, compared to 3,392 in 1999-2000. Notre Dame also recorded the first two women’s basketball sellouts in school history, as 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center for victories over top-ranked Connecticut and Georgetown.


Notre Dame will play 10 teams which reached the postseason as part of a rugged schedule this year. The Irish will battle seven NCAA Tournament squads, including four (Connecticut – 1/1, Purdue – 11/9, Michigan – 17/20 and Colorado State – 24/25) which were ranked in the Top 25 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today preseason polls. In addition, 10 Irish opponents are receiving votes in one or both of the major preseason rankings.


Notre Dame will get a good deal of face time in 2001-02, playing on television six times, including nationally-televised contests against Connecticut (Jan. 21 on ESPN) and Arizona (Nov. 24 on Fox Sports Net). In addition, Notre Dame will appear three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Virginia Tech (Jan. 26) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 12) and Rutgers (Feb. 16). All three of those games will be telecast live on Fox Sports Chicago as part of the league’s TV deal. The BIG EAST tournament semifinals on March 4 also will be aired on the BIG EAST TV package, while the conference championship game on March 5 will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

Additionally, the rematch of the 2001 NCAA championship game between Notre Dame and Purdue on Dec. 6 from West Lafayette, Ind., will be televised live by LeSea Broadcasting’s flagship station, WHME-TV 46 in South Bend. Other LeSea stations may choose to carry the broadcast as well.


Freshman guard Jill Krause will give fans an inside look at the the 2001-02 Irish women’s basketball team through regular diary entries on the Notre Dame athletic website, Entitled “Confessions of a Freshman,” the Glenview, Ill., native will trace the journey for a first-year player on the defending NCAA championship squad. Her diary entries may be accessed either from the front page or the women’s basketball page on the Notre Dame website.


For the second time in as many years, Notre Dame sent a player with the BIG EAST Women’s Basketball All-Star Team, as guard/forward Ericka Haney joined the squad for its six-game swing of Germany this summer. Haney followed in the footsteps of Niele Ivey, who helped lead the BIG EAST All-Stars to a 5-1 record during a junket through Canada in the summer of 2000.

Haney helped the BIG EAST, which was led by Syracuse head coach Marianna Freeman, to an unbeaten 6-0 record during its tour, scoring a team-high 18 points in a 103-57 win over Ludwigsburg/Malmsheim in the final game of the trip.

Haney finished with a team-high 13.0 points per game and collected 4.5 rebounds per game during her European vacation. She also scored in double figures in five of the All-Stars’ six wins.

– ND –