Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2023

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 39 of 47

40 DECEMBER 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA T he walk across the court is a very familiar one for Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey, but it can be made in very different contexts. When she's coming out of the tunnel to assume her position on the bench at Pur- cell Pavilion, with the crowd roaring and players getting their final warm-up looks in, that's when the walk is enjoyable. When the arena is so quiet that all you can hear is a player's agonizing cries, that's when it's most difficult. Ivey trudged across the floor Nov. 15 to check on junior guard Sonia Citron, just as she had Jan. 22 to assist graduate student Dara Mabrey and Feb. 26 to be there for then-sophomore Olivia Miles. Both Mabrey and Miles busted up their knees to the point of needing significant surgeries. Human nature and alarming prec- edent led Ivey to the darkest depths of her imagination as she approached Cit- ron. Remember, this is a head coach who twice tore her ACL as a student-athlete at Notre Dame. "My heart dropped when I saw her on the ground," Ivey said. "We just had to go through it twice last year." The third time might be the charm. Ivey said after Notre Dame's 79-68 victory over Illinois Nov. 18 that Citron has just a knee sprain and should be back in the Irish lineup in a couple of weeks. That's a season-saving development. Subtracting Citron from the calculus of Notre Dame's roster would be like re- moving "dy" or "dx" from a differential equation. You just can't do it. Citron is the variable that makes it all make sense for the Fighting Irish. She's a hustle player on defense. She's a walking bucket and can score at all three levels on offense. She does it all with a calm demeanor and a mellowing presence providing comfort and confi- dence to her teammates. "Honestly, I've always played for So- nia," Notre Dame senior forward Maddy Westbeld said. "She's a person that will give her all in every game." Westbeld paid tribute in the best way in the Irish's first game without Citron. The senior scored 24 points, one shy of her career high of 25, which she's hit twice previously. When Notre Dame needed Westbeld the most — on a neutral-site floor against a Big Ten team in the Irish's third game away from home in less than two weeks to start the season — she was just about as good as she's ever been. With an indefinite timeline for Cit- ron's return, and with Miles' own schedule in flux coming back from her knee injury, it can't just be a one-off for Westbeld. Notre Dame needs the vet- eran leader's best every night. She must keep producing at a higher rate than she did in the last two seasons when she averaged 11.8 and 11.2 points per game. She needs to get back to her freshman-year average of 15.2. "Maddy has always had the versatil- ity of scoring," Ivey said. "She takes on defenders on the block. She can stretch it from three. She's shooting [above] 50 percent from the three-point line. So she does a lot of things well for us. [Citron's injury] requires her to take the lead in scoring and being OK with being a go-to player." Citron averaged 20.3 points in the three games she played before suffer- ing the injury. Twenty points is a lot to make up. But the void goes beyond that. Citron is in on so many plays on both ends of the floor that aren't vis- WALKING A TIGHTROPE Notre Dame must stay afloat without two of the best guards in women's college basketball Junior guard Sonia Citron should be back from a knee sprain sometime in December after suffering the injury Nov. 15. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - December 2023