Nov. 5, 2001
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Less than eight months after completing a magical run to the 2001 NCAA championship, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team returns to action Tuesday at 7 p.m. (EST), playing its first exhibition game against the Ohio Girls’ Basketball Magazine Legends at the Joyce Center. The Irish posted a 34-2 record last season, including a 15-0 mark at home, en route to its first national championship. Notre Dame kicks off its 25th anniversary season in 2001-02 with seven returning monogram winners and a bumper crop of six talented freshmen to help uphold the program’s tradition of excellence.
Head coach Muffet McGraw enters 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.) 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.
Joining Ratay in the backcourt will be sophomore Le’Tania Severe (1.9 ppg.), who fills the large shoes left by third-team All-American Niele Ivey, now with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Severe was hampered by injuries last season, appearing in just 22 games, but she has confidently taken control of the Irish offense in preseason workouts and will look to make great strides this season. 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.
A pair of freshmen (and former Parade All-Americans) are poised to make an immediate impact on the Notre Dame front line, as Jacqueline Batteast and Teresa Borton will both get the starting nod Tuesday night. 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. Junior Amanda Barksdale (1.4 ppg., 1.7 bpg.) was one of the nation’s top shot blockers last season, while freshman Katy Flecky was a two-time Miss Colorado Basketball and offers the Irish an extremely physical presence in the post.
Comprised mostly of former high school, college or pro players from the state of Ohio, the OGBM Legends are 2-2 on their current 15-game, 15-day exhibition tour of the Midwest, entering their Monday night game at Illinois. Former Purdue standout Jannon Roland has paced the Legends during the early part of their tour, averaging 15.3 ppg. and 5.8 rpg. during their first four games.
RATAY NAMED NAISMITH CANDIDATE FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR — 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 conches, 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.
EXHIBITION EXCELLENCE FOR IRISH — Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable in exhibition games over the last eight seasons. Since the 1993-94 campaign, the Irish are 14-1 (.933) in this preseason tilts and own an active nine-game exhibition winning streak. During that time, Notre Dame has outscored its preseason opponents by a count of 90-66. 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-ever NCAA Final Four that year.
POLL POSITION — Notre Dame is ranked 14th in the ESPN/USA Today preseason Top 25 poll released Monday. It marks the 57th 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 was highlighted by their six-week stay atop the rankings last season and their year-end finish at No. 1. Notre Dame has also spent 55 straight weeks in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, a streak they are expected to keep intact when the first media poll is released on Tuesday.
NOW THAT’S A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE — 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.
SEASON TICKET SALES REACH ALL-TIME HIGH FOR IRISH — Attendance at Notre Dame women’s basketball games in 2000-01 increased nearly 88 percent compared to the previous season – and early 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.
The sale of season tickets for 2001-02 actually began midway through Notre Dame’s 2001 championship season. All seats will be reserved for Irish women’s games for the first time in 2001-02 – 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 Connecticut and Georgetown.
NOTRE DAME FACES TOUGH SCHEDULE IN 2001-02 — 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 Final Four participants Purdue and Connecticut, both of whom were ranked in the top 10 in the recently-released ESPN/USA Today preseason poll. Other ranked foes on this year’s docket include No. 20 Michigan, 23rd-ranked Rutgers and No. 25 Colorado State. Seven other opponents are receiving votes in the initial coaches poll.
The Irish will get a good deal of face time in 2001-02, playing on television five 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. The BIG EAST tournament semifinals will also be aired on the league’s TV network, while the conference championship game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
– ND –