Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2021 Issue

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

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36 MAY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T he middle of March was about as unpleasant as it could be for head coach Niele Ivey and the Notre Dame women's basket- ball program. After waiting 10 days and hold- ing out hope that the 10-10 Fighting Irish would receive an NCAA Tour- nament bid, on Selection Monday (March 15) Notre Dame was one of the "first four teams out" — a verdict Ivey magnanimously accepted. Five fourth-quarter collapses in defeat wreaked the disappointing result. "I can't really question the decision," Ivey said. "I just want to make sure that in the future I do my due diligence to make sure that we are in control of our destiny. … I'm hoping to be able to be in control more [next] year." The decision to end the season rather than accept a bid to the WNIT was hers. "I just felt like with injuries and … it wasn't something I wanted to partici- pate in for many reasons," Ivey said. Perhaps among them, but not pub- licly known at the time, was that three of her freshmen entered the transfer portal: guards Alasia Hayes and Alli Campbell, plus forward Amirah Abdur-Rahim. Combined with sixth-year senior Destinee Walker and senior Mikki Vaughn ready to move on beyond college basketball, and necessary MRIs needed among returning team members, more practices amidst a disappointing year weren't worth- while, per Ivey. "We had a couple of players who were playing through injuries," the coach noted. "There was a lot men- tally on them dealing with COVID. It was better for us to be done and get healthy. I thought it was the best move for us moving forward." On March 19, Ivey traveled to In- dianapolis to watch her freshman son, Jaden Ivey, play for No. 4-seed Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. Despite a superb effort by him with a career- high 26 points, the Boilermakers were upset by No. 13 seed North Texas. The following day, 6-2 Fort Wayne, Ind., forward Ayanna Patterson, com- mitted to Connecticut over Notre Dame, Louisville, Indiana and UCLA. Patterson, the No. 3 prospect in the nation according to ESPN Hoop- Gurlz, was a top priority in the 2022 class, with Ivey reportedly offering her a scholarship in her first week on the job last spring. Nobody from the 2022 cycle has pledged yet to the Irish. Thus ended the discouraging week of an extremely challenging maiden voyage as the head coach. TOUGH TIMES Replacing a Hall of Fame coach- ing legend can be a thankless task in itself, which is what Ivey faces, similar to Holly Warlick succeeding Pat Summitt at Tennessee. Combining the learning curve of a rookie head coach with a global pandemic heightened the degree of difficulty. "That was something I definitely learned on the fly the entire season," Ivey said. "I've learned so much. I thought it was a phenomenal year of growth for me." Her first goal in 2021-22 is to have a healthy, relatively normal summer to construct the team dynamics she wants in order to return to the NCAA Tournament. "Not having a summer last summer due to COVID and just the school not having athletes on campus, this sum- mer I want to build that chemistry," she said. "… Establish culture, the of- fense and defense, having the oppor- tunity to do it early and not starting almost in October because of protocols. "… I think I'll have it in early enough for next season, and adding [Stanford graduate transfer] Maya Dodson and [McDonald's All-Amer- ican and freshman] Sonia Citron, I think that's going to be huge to build that chemistry early. "The summer is where you get to grow as a team: the camaraderie, the chemistry on the court, playing pickup, just playing. We didn't get a chance to do that. I started the season with six, seven players, added play- ers throughout the season, added an early enrollee [point guard Olivia Miles] — so the chemistry is going to be huge. Having that opportunity to Notre Dame missed the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season when head coach Niele Ivey and her 10-10 team were listed among the "first four out" on Selection Monday March 15. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS March Sadness The Fighting Irish are eager to rebound from a trying month

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