Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 9, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 55 NOV. 9, 2019 49 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL "I do want to be a leader," Brunelle said. "I know that I'm a freshman right now, but I think it doesn't really matter what your age is. You can always bring some type of leadership to the team. "I'm getting the hang of the of- fense we're running. Defensively, I still have to work, and that's always been my deal. Hopefully I can be- come a really good defender sooner than later." McGraw noted that when a mili- tary group was in this fall to put the women through mental and physical toughness tests, they immediately identified Brunelle as possessing the leadership traits that will bode well. "That was a great experience," Brunelle said of the drills they went through. "After doing that it made us better in leadership and accountability." Having huge expectations thrust on her is embraced and not avoided, but at the same time she maintains she also has to play within a team frame- work and not try to justify the hype. "They have so much confidence in us, and that helps us perform better," Brunelle said of the coaches. "We're all getting comfortable with each other and everything we're doing." "She's very outgoing, I think she's going to make a lot of friends," Mc- Graw said. "The fans are going to love her." Peoples also possesses an effer- vescent personality mixed in with fierce competitiveness. Her game is modeled after Young, the No. 1 pick in last year's WNBA Draft, and she prides herself on an ability to excel virtually anywhere on the court. "I've always been taught if the de- fense takes something away, give it something else," said Peoples, who in addition to starting as a guard/ wing, serves as the backup point guard for Stanford graduate transfer Marta Sniezek, just as Young did for Mabrey. "Score off the dribble, shoot threes, get my teammates the ball … just so I can't be stopped in one aspect of my game. "I'm here for whatever she needs me. I'll learn all the spots and am pretty comfortable in almost every spot." If there was one source of aggrava- tion for McGraw last year it was the lack of defensive intensity because the starters knew they had the fire- power to outscore virtually anyone. In Sniezek, Peoples and sophomore reserve Abby Prohaska, McGraw sees a group much more committed to defense. "Anaya's a great defender," Mc- Graw said. "She's active, she's ag- gressive, she's willing — and that's important." "Defense is probably my favorite part of the game," Peoples said. "Just getting the energy off of a steal, you can feel the intensity when all your teammates are on the same page, and we're all moving in sync. That just gets the whole offense started, De- fense wins championships. "I think my energy and defensive energy will help this team. We all feed off of each other." ✦ Notre Dame led the nation in scoring last year with an average of 88.6 points per game, of which 82.1 is gone, with 6-3 junior center Mikayla Vaughn's 3.3 output the tops in the current lineup. In a promotion offered by the school, those in at- tendance at a women's home game could purchase a free Big Mac when the Irish reached 88 points — which they did in 11 of the 15 regular season home games last season. Save your appetites this year, head coach Muffet McGraw has warned. A 66-point effort might be more realistic this season. "Our goal is to be a really good defensive team," McGraw said. "We've had to teach a lot more. Sometimes we're trying to pump the brakes be- cause we forget things they don't know — we just assumed that they know." McGraw and her staff fully expect Notre Dame to continue its streak of 24 consecutive NCAA Tourna- ment appearances (fourth longest in the nation). However, data such as having won eight straight regular season conference titles in either the Big East or ACC and a 90-5 conference record in the ACC — including 48-0 at home — probably will take a hit. Part of that is because of a brutal non-conference slate that begins at reigning Atlantic 10 champion Fordham Nov. 5. Of the 12 non-conference games on the schedule, eight are against teams that made last year's NCAA Tournament, and five were league champions. The schedule was made with the thought that guard Jackie Young — the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft — would return for her senior season. "We are definitely going to have some hiccups early on. We're going to hit some bumps in the road," McGraw said. "By the time we get to January [the start of conference play], I think we're going to be a much better team. By the time we get to March, we will be a very good team." The goals for now are to finish in the top four of the 15-team ACC in order to receive a double bye in the conference tournament, and to earn home court for the NCAA Tournament again as a top-16 team. SIZING IT UP The unit will primarily have a four-guard look, which makes Vaughn a crucial figure in the low post as a rebounder or even in the high post as a passer in the Princeton motion offense. A high-energy player, Vaughn has to stay out of foul trouble. Through the preseason work so far, McGraw has complimented Vaughn as someone "doing exactly what we need her to do," in regard to crashing the boards and converting a high percentage of field goals inside, especially off the screen and roll. Sophomore Danielle Cosgrove has reshaped her 6-4 frame much like Jessica Shepard did last season with a much better nutrition program, although like freshman Sam Brunelle she is more of a stretch four figure whose forte has been along the perimeter. "We don't have a lot of size," McGraw acknowl- edged. "We're not going to make anybody's 'All- Lobby' team just walking through." In addition to the nine scholarship players, includ- ing current senior and former walk-on Kaitlin Cole and graduate transfers Destinee Walker (North Carolina) and Marta Sniezek (Stanford), three walk-ons were added to the roster to join guard Nicole Benz — 5-8 sophomore twins Margaret and Catherine Murdock, and 5-11 freshman forward Kathleen Keyes. — Lou Somogyi A Different Identity In Notre Dame's Makeover Junior center Mikayla Vaughn is the leading returning scorer from last year's team with a 3.3 points-per-game average. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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