April 15, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the second consecutive year, senior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) has been chosen to receive the Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award, it was announced Tuesday at the 2007-08 Notre Dame Women's Basketball Banquet, which was held Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.
Approximately 525 people were in attendance, the second-largest banquet crowd in program history, as the Irish celebrated a magnificent '07-08 season that culminated with a 25-9 record and Notre Dame's seventh NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in the past 12 years, as well as a top-15 ranking in the final Associated Press (15th) and ESPN/USA Today (13th) polls.
In addition, the Irish recorded their sixth 25-win season in the past 12 years and 14th 20-win season in the past 15 years, not to mention its 16th consecutive winning season, 20th in the 21-year Muffet McGraw era and 27th in the 31-year history of Irish women's basketball. The Irish also ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in six NCAA statistical categories, including scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg), scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg), steals (13th - 11.7 spg), assist/turnover ratio (18th - 1.04), field goal percentage (22nd - .447) and free throw percentage (22nd - .758).
As if that weren't enough, Notre Dame set or tied school records for steals (tied - 397), opponent turnovers (737), 30-point wins (tied - 10), 90-point games (tied - 7) and points in a road game (104 at Georgetown on Jan. 19). The Irish also collected three wins over ranked opponents (two in the top 15) and now have 45 wins over ranked teams in the past decade. Furthermore, Notre Dame finished ninth in the country in attendance this season with an average of 7,016 fans per game (third-best in school history), its eighth consecutive top-20 attendance ranking, and the Irish had multiple sellout crowds for the second time in program annals (Jan. 5 vs. Tennessee; Jan. 27 vs. Connecticut).
Other honorees at Tuesday night's banquet (as chosen by a vote of their teammates) included: senior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne), who was selected as the team's Defensive Player of the Year; freshman forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind./Wheeler), who became the second rookie in as many years (and second in program history) to take home the team's Most Improved Player Award; and senior guard Amanda Tsipis (Perry, Ohio/Perry), who became a four-time winner of the Spirit Award and also earned her second consecutive Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award. Each member of the senior class, including center Melissa D'Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd) and student managers Sarah Lawless and Elizabeth Stohl, also delivered moving speeches about their four-year careers at Notre Dame, although Gaines was recognized in absentia as she was in Washington, D.C., preparing for a training camp tryout with the WNBA's Washington Mystics on Wednesday morning.
Another heartfelt moment occurred earlier in the evening, when longtime Irish women's basketball supporter and Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies employee Patricia McAdams (M.S. `67) was presented with an honorary monogram by the Notre Dame Monogram Club. While returning from Notre Dame's Jan. 13 road game at West Virginia, McAdams was severely injured when she stopped on a highway outside Fort Wayne to help a fellow motorist and was then struck by a car. McAdams, who continues to rehabilitate from her injuries at South Bend's St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, made one of her first public appearances since the accident at Tuesday night's women's basketball banquet.
Notre Dame will have three starters and seven monogram winners returning next season, along with a three-player freshman class that has been ranked as high as eighth in the nation by Dan Olsen Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. It's the 12th consecutive year that the Irish have attracted a top-20 recruiting class, with Notre Dame being one of only three schools in the country that holds that distinction.
Here's a closer look at the 2007-08 Notre Dame women's basketball award winners:
Charel Allen (Sr., G, Monessen, Pa./Monessen)
Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP
Quite simply, Allen will go down as one of the top all-around players in school history. A two-time honorable mention All-America selection and first-team all-BIG EAST Conference pick, Allen is the first Irish women's basketball player ever to record 1,500 points (1,566), 500 rebounds (656), 200 assists (239) and 200 steals (206) in her career. She also ranks eighth all-time at Notre Dame with 1,566 points, one of 10 categories where she appears in the top 10 in the program's career record books, in addition to countless appearances on the Irish single-game, single-season and NCAA tournament charts.
Playing as a team tri-captain this season, Allen started all 34 games (finishing on a streak of 66 consecutive starts to end her career), ranking 11th in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.1 ppg), fifth in free throw percentage (.815) and 12th in steals (1.85 spg). She also had two double-doubles and scored in double figures 30 times (including 21 of her final 22 games), highlighted by four 20-point outings and a career-high 35 points in the second round of the NCAA tournament against No. 14/13 Oklahoma (a game the Irish won 79-75 in overtime). Earlier in the year, she collected a spot on the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team after leading Notre Dame to the semifinals of that event for the third time in as many visits (the Irish won the title in 2004 during Allen's freshman season).
Last week, Allen became the seventh Notre Dame player in the past eight years to be selected in the WNBA Draft when she was selected in the third round (43rd overall) by the Sacramento Monarchs. In addition, she is on schedule to graduate next month from the College of Arts & Letters, where she is a double major in sociology and computer applications.
Tulyah Gaines (Sr., G, North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne)
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Gaines used her remarkable speed and playmaking ability to dazzle Joyce Center crowds on a nightly basis. A team captain during her final two seasons, she was one of the most durable players in school history, playing in 124 of a possible 129 games, including 76 consecutive starts to close out her career. The fiery floor general averaged 6.1 points and 2.7 assists per game in her career, ranking ninth in school history in total assists (335).
This season, Gaines averaged 6.9 points and 3.8 assists per game, ranking ninth in the BIG EAST in assist/turnover ratio (1.48) and 14th in assists. She also scored in double figures seven times, including a season-high 22 points in a Feb. 13 win over Marquette. In addition, Gaines was one of the heroes in Notre Dame's NCAA tournament second-round win over No. 14/13 Oklahoma, putting the Irish ahead to stay on a free throw with 51.3 seconds left in overtime.
Also a two-time winner of the program's Most Improved Player award, Gaines currently is enrolled in the College of Arts & Letters as a double major in film, television & theater, and computer applications. She has been named to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team each of the past two years, and she is expected to make a third appearance on that elite list when it is released later this semester.
Becca Bruszewski (Fr., F, Valparaiso, Ind./Wheeler)
Most Improved Player Award
Bruszewski follows in the footsteps of center Erica Williamson as the second consecutive freshman to earn the Notre Dame Most Improved Player Award. A bruising 6-foot-1 forward, Bruszewski never once backed away from the challenge of bigger opponents, and in fact, she seemed to thrive against the toughest competition. She appeared in 32 games as a rookie, averaging 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game with a team-high .558 field goal percentage. In addition, she scored in double figures six times, including two of Notre Dame's three NCAA tournament games, when she set (and then matched) her career high with 16 points against SMU in the first round and against Tennessee in the Oklahoma City Regional semifinals. She also grabbed a career-high seven rebounds on two occasions -- at Maryland in the Preseason WNIT semifinals and in the regular-season matchup with Tennessee at the Joyce Center.
Amanda Tsipis (Sr., G, Perry, Ohio/Perry)
Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award
A four-time winner of Notre Dame's Spirit Award, Tsipis was a valuable contributor behind the scenes during her Notre Dame career, helping the Irish to four NCAA tournament berths (including this year's Sweet 16 appearance), the 2004 Preseason WNIT title and a 90-39 (.698) record. Her commitment and dedication to team success, as well as her never-ending work ethic and overflowing positive energy, made her one of the most respected and popular players in program history, and were key reasons why she was voted a team tri-captain by her peers prior to the season.
This year, Tsipis played in a career-high 20 games, averaging 0.9 points and 0.5 rebounds per game, and made her first career start on Senior Day (March 1) against Seton Hall. She also tied her career scoring high with three points against Michigan on Dec. 2 and her personal rebounding best with two boards against Saint Francis (Pa.) on Dec. 29.
Off the court, Tsipis' attention to her studies is virtually without peer. She is currently enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business, where she is pursuing a double major in finance and psychology and has a 3.653 cumulative grade-point average (GPA). Tsipis also is a three-time Dean's List honoree, most recently earning that distinction this past fall, when she posted a 3.846 term GPA. In addition, she is a three-time selection to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team (likely to make it four in a row later this semester) and earned the Rockne Student-Athlete Award for the second consecutive year.