Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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Page 24 of 63 MAY 2018 25 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL and seven rebounds in 16 minutes during a 72-67 win at Oregon State, which upset Baylor in the Sweet 16. Current freshman Danielle Patter- son might be a year away yet — but what does it say about your roster when a McDonald's All-American such as Patterson might be your ninth option in the lineup? • When McGraw looks down the bench next season — Eureka! — she will actually find guards on scholar- ship and available to play, namely incoming freshmen Katlyn Gilbert and Jordan Nixon, both McDonald's All-Americans, plus Abby Prohaska. Nixon is a point guard, and Gil- bert has played the point as well. The fourth recruit, 6-4 Danielle Cosgrove, will likely need to bide her time be- hind the likes of Shepard, Turner, Vaughn and maybe Patterson. • The coaching with Naismith Hall of Fame enshrinee McGraw, longtime assistant Carol Owens and former star Irish players Beth Morgan Cunning- ham and Niele Ivey speaks for itself. CHEMISTRY, HUNGER & THE INTANGIBLES For all the lamentation about having only seven scholarship players this past season because of four ACL tears and two transfers last spring — Erin Boley (Oregon) and Ali Patberg (Indiana) — it promoted superb focus, and even galvanized the team in many ways. "There's a lot to be said for that, for how we came together to have a small team," McGraw said. "You know you're going to play, you can play through your mistakes. I think it was a little bit easier on them know- ing that they can play free and not have to worry about anything." "People were able to play [freer], for sure, and also the chemistry we built together, the jell that we got to form just by playing 40 minutes night in and night out," Mabrey agreed. "There are some ups and downs to it, but I think in the end we benefitted." A special camaraderie was built to not let each other down because of the thin roster. They had nobody to turn to but each other. "I think it made it a little easier with the injuries just because there's not really a rotation," Ogunbowale said. "It's about six people that we played, so we really know each other well and I think the chemistry was really tight." "We just had to come together, play together as a team, play for each other — play for the people that were unable to play," said Young, who played a couple of months with a mask to pro- tect a broken nose. "I think that's what made us such a good team this year." There can be such a thing as being "too deep" when it leads to internal bickering or jealousy about playing time. "You form a lot better chemis- try with the people who can play because there's only a few of us," graduating senior forward Kathryn Westbeld said of this past season. "You pretty much were able to figure out everyone's strengths and weak- nesses, and you can really maximize that and play off of each other." Everyone knew her role in 2017-18 and did not try to steal the show. Westbeld kept everyone in line with superb leadership, guts, guile and a winning spirit to go with her under- rated skill sets. She epitomized the team's identity of toughness and grit. Both she and Kristina "Koko" Nel- son will be replaced by more talented players in Turner and Vaughn, but the impact they had as complemen- tary players was crucial. "They're more like sisters, so they can yell at each other on the court," McGraw said of the 2017-18 chem- istry. "They're not sensitive, they don't carry it off the court, there's no drama with this team. They're all business, and I think that's why we were able to sustain things when things got really rocky." McGraw was "forced" into playing zone defense, but with what trans- pired this year, she was willing to ad- just. As the late, great Ara Parseghian often liked to state, "Adversity elicits talent which under prosperous condi- tions would have remained dormant." "In some ways having to play the 2-3 zone was maybe the best thing we could have done," McGraw said. "You just look at all the things that went wrong and you found a way to make it go right." Everything points to "prosperous conditions" in 2018-19 for the Fight- ing Irish — but this time the pressure will be on to repeat and dominate. Next year, some new faces and roles will have to adapt. The chemistry and team dynamics that made this season so special might be altered. In 2013, Baylor was the over- whelming pick to repeat as national champions after finishing 40-0 with Brittney Griner and Co. — but didn't even make it back to the Final Four. This year, UConn was the easy se- lection to win its fifth national title in six seasons while adding Stevens and No. 1 recruit Megan Walker to a lineup that helped win 111 straight games. All it takes is one game for it to end. Will the proverbial "eye of the tiger" remain that was in the 2017-18 unit? "Our team is super determined," Mabrey said of next season. "Every- one's going to go back this summer, work hard, try to tweak things in their game and try to get another national championship." After what transpired this season, McGraw knows perceptions are in- consequential. "There are no guarantees what's going to happen next year," McGraw said. "We know better than anybody that things can change in the blink of an eye. "We're going to enjoy this one and see what next year brings." ✦ 2018 Freshman Class Earns Honors Ranked No. 7 by espnW, Notre Dame's 2018 freshman class is comprised of four players who earned numerous postseason honors. • Guards Katlyn Gilbert (5‑10) and Jordan Nixon (5‑8) were both selected to the prestigious 24‑person Mc‑ Donald's All‑American Game held March 28 in Atlanta. Playing for the East, Nixon finished with seven points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, while West member Gilbert collected seven points, three assists and two steals. Nixon was named Miss New York by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York, awarded to the top high school player in the state. Gilbert is a top candidate for Indiana's Ms. Basketball, which will be named April 29. • Ohio guard Abby Prohaska (5‑10) was named first‑team Division I All‑Ohio at Lakota West High while losing only eight games in her career. • New York 6‑4 forward Danielle Cosgrove amassed 1,573 points and 1,037 rebounds in her career at Sachem East High. Look for more on the freshman class in the next edition. — Lou Somogyi GILBERT

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