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    FIGHTING IRISH
    FIGHTING IRISH

    FIGHTING IRISH

    Oct. 14, 2008

    Head Coach Muffet McGraw

    Opening statement...
    "I want to thank everyone for coming out today. It has been an exciting week for us getting ready to start. Each year is a kind of like a new team. It's a new chemistry, new leadership and certainly when you graduate such good players as Charel Allen and Tulyah Gaines, you are going to have a different look to your team. I am really excited about our leadership. (Senior guard) Lindsay Schrader is playing great basketball and she is really ready to lead this team and I think (junior guard) Melissa Lechlitner will definitely be the leader on the floor when she's got the ball in her hands. Everybody on the team feels very confident in her ability to get us going and she is also playing really well right now. And (junior guard) Ashley Barlow, as always, does a great job on both ends of the floor. So we've got a great trio of players that are going to lead our team and our freshmen are going to contribute. We are going to play a lot of different people and we are expecting big things from this class."

    On no seniors...
    "It is the first time in my career I haven't had any seniors and I'm looking forward to it because I know we have great leadership. I think that is the worry, when you don't have any seniors, that you don't have that sense of urgency that this is their last go around and they really want to win it in their senior season. But I'm not worried about that at all because as I mentioned, the leadership we have with Schrader, Lechlitner and Barlow. Those three are just great captains and they are going to do such a tremendous job with our young players. It will be interesting. It's great to know that we will have everyone back next year so if we can have a great year this year, we know that next year we can continue to build on that."

     

     

    On players returning with (NCAA) tournament experience...
    "It's so important to get that experience in the NCAA Tournament and we were fortunate that we were able to play a lot of people in those games and to get to the Sweet 16, especially when we were able to upset a team as good as Oklahoma who is ranked third this preseason already. I think it gave us a lot of confidence. We went into the Tennessee game feeling very confident. We certainly played a great first half in that game. We looked back and saw some opportunities that we missed, but certainly to lose to the eventual national champions gives you a little bit of confidence to know that you gave them a good game."

    On replacing Charel Allen...
    "You don't replace Charel with just one player. I think the things she did and her poise under pressure were her greatest assets to the team. She was somebody that never showed emotion in a good way. She was always calm and we just knew that when we got her the ball she was going to be able to score. Now we actually have a little better opportunity because we have such good balance and we have so many other players that can look for that spot. We've got Lindsay Schrader who can be our go-to player. We've got Devereaux Peters who could be a go-to player. Certainly Melissa Lechlitner and Ashley Barlow made big plays for us last year. So now instead of the other team knowing that we are going to Charel Allen, now they have got to guess which one of those four players is going to take that shot."

    On (Devereaux) Peters returning...
    "Devereaux is back practicing. She was cleared about the six-month mark out of her surgery which has only been a little over a week right now. She looks great. She is running well. She doesn't look like she has lost a step. She is as fast as she was. She did a great job in the conditioning tests so she's in pretty good shape, certainly not 100 percent. I would say maybe somewhere in the 80's in terms of where she is right now. I expect by the BIG EAST season she will be back in the form that she was in last year. I anticipate her coming off the bench initially and working her way back into the lineup. I have big plans for her and I think she is going to be a huge part of the team and certainly make a big impact in the things that she did for us last year. I expect her role to grow a little, but her emphasis right now is to get 100 percent healthy."

    On (Melissa) Lechlitner's leadership...
    "The change with Melissa began immediately after last season when she came out for our postseason workouts and she was almost a different player immediately. She is somebody that is shooting the ball very well right now and is playing with a lot of confidence, but the respect that she has from her teammates is amazing. When she is on the floor, we are just such a cohesive group. She is a tremendous leader, everybody looks to her, they know she will get them in the right spots and do the right things. She is going to have just a sensational year."

    On working with a young group...
    "I can't wait to get started to see how the lineup is going to look and the different combinations we can use. Certainly the freshmen are going to try to get into the lineup a little bit, but there are so many different ways we can score. Defensively we are going to do some different things than we did last year. The players are anxious that since Charel is gone, who is going to be the one to take the big shot because that is something that we have quite a few players that want to be that go to player. They feel that now they are juniors and they have certainly earned their way up to the top and they are really looking forward to a brand new season. Last year is over and we had a great year, but we are looking to big things this year, too. You always want to get a little bit better. The BIG EAST Tournament is somewhere where we want to get a lot better. I think it will be interesting to see how we get through the BIG EAST. It is always one of the best conferences, certainly last year (being) the best conference in basketball. The competition is tremendous. Our schedule is difficult early on and it is just going to prepare us for the BIG EAST."

    On the freshmen...
    "A couple of players will see some time early. Natalie Novosel has been playing well in practice and she is somebody that the fans are going to love because she is a little bit like the Energizer bunny. She never stops moving. She is kind of a cross between Ashley Barlow and Brittany Mallory. She really works hard and she is not afraid to get her nose in there and she is very competitive and very aggressive and she is picking up things very well. We've got Kellie Watson, who is a great three-point shooter, and Erica Solomon, who is going to shore up our defense and our rebounding, and clearly those are two areas where we really need improving is the defense and the rebounding."

    On the season outlook...
    "Due to the fact that we do not have any seniors, I want to see how far we go this year. Then next year will be a completely different look to the team. This year, we are still a young team and we still have some growing pains and we still have four freshmen that are going to take some time to get through some things. I think this year will be a little tougher year than next year will be. Next year, depending on our success this year, will be a much easier year. We definitely have a lot of talent and it will take a little luck of the Irish, and we're hoping we have a lot of luck especially in terms of injury. That is one thing that you can't control. You just hope that you stay healthy. There are times you need to stay out of foul trouble. There are times you just don't shoot the ball well in games. There are things we can control and if we do the things that we are suppose to, if we can get better defensively, then I think we can have a great year and definitely challenge deep into the (NCAA) tournament. You have to have some things go your way, in terms of the draw. Who are you going to play in the first couple of rounds and certainly having it at home give us a big advantage with the home court crowd."

    On improving the three-point shooting...
    "We are going to have a committee of shooters this year, where Brittany Mallory really was our main weapon and Ashley Barlow shot the ball pretty well (last year). This year, I expect both of them and Melissa Lechlitner and Kellie Watson and Natalie Novosel to contribute. So right now, everyone is trying to help and everyone is trying to be the one that helps us at shooting threes."

    On Becca Bruszewski...
    "She had such a tremendous finish and is our most improved player on the team. In two of our biggest games of the season, she scored career highs of 16 points and the latter of the two came against Tennessee and against Candace Parker. She worked really hard, she looks great, she's in great shape, she is playing well and she is going to be one of the people considered for a starting job and if we started tomorrow she would be starting. She is one of those players that can play with her back to the basket and can switch to playing facing the basket and she has really improved her perimeter game."

    On the guard play...
    "Lechlitner makes us go so I expect her to be on the floor a lot of the time. Her big thing to work on this year is to stay out of foul trouble. She is smart enough to play with fouls but we want to be aggressive defensively and that will be tough if you are in foul trouble. I think Ashley Barlow and Natalie Novosel and Lechlitner will be the main three and we are hoping to have one of those three on the floor at all times." On changing the offense...
    "We aren't going to change much in the offense. We are going to run a lot of the same stuff and I really like the four-guard lineup. We scored a lot of points with that offense. Certainly the press helped a lot with that and our transition game, so I think we will continue to do almost everything we did last season offensively."

    On Ashley Barlow...
    "I'm sure the other teams wish she were graduating this year because she is always a thorn in other teams' sides. She is kind of like a glue player for us and she is someone we just have to have on the floor. She shoots the ball well, she's smart, she attacks the basket, she gets to the free throw line and she comes up with big plays all the time. Remember in overtime against Oklahoma, she made a steal that really won the game for us. Big defensive plays are really key for us and she is someone that can always come up with a big play for us and we want to have her on the floor as much as possible."

    On changing the defense this year...
    "We are going to guard the three-point line this year. We are determined to guard the three-point line. That is the one thing I think we have talked nonstop since the season ended - what defense can we play that can help us do that - and I think that we haven't figured it out yet. We have a lot of options that we will start to working on on Friday. Certainly that is on the players' minds and everybody knows that we have got to improve in that one area. We will try to be more aggressive with the height we have this year. We will probably get beat more to the basket this year but we have height inside so that plays into our philosophy and I would rather give up a two then a three. If you can run at them and make them put it on the floor then I think we will have a much better chance at keeping up scoring-wise."

    Sophomore Forward Becca Bruszewski

    On what her role is for the 2008-09 team...
    "I'm definitely looking forward to expanding my range. I've been shooting a lot of three pointers, working on my shot and my footwork. I'm definitely coming in with a new role but bringing the same type of game inside and outside."

    On what parts of her game she worked on over the off-season...
    "I went to Wheeler (High School) to shoot around and was in the weight room there. (I was) working on my driving and my jump shots, because my feet were off so I was working on new footwork in the off-season. It wasn't as quick (last year). I had a little hop in there so we got rid of that and it's more fluid now."

    On what she learned over her first season playing for the Irish...
    "It is a lot more intense (than high school). The BIG EAST is a big-time conference and is real physical and you just have to rise to the occasion."

    On how long it took to become comfortable with the college game...
    "Probably until mid-season. (Coach McGraw) put me in against Rutgers and Maryland, and that's when I really got tested. I felt more comfortable, got more reps in practice, flowed with the team better and understood my role. That's the biggest part, now I'm understanding my role on the team."

    Senior Guard Lindsay Schrader

    On being fully recovered...
    "I feel like I was a little slow last year. I definitely feel a lot quicker this year. My first step is a little quicker. I can definitely tell a difference between last year and this year. I think I just lost a little bit of speed. Being out for six months, you lose a little bit. I truly believe it takes a whole year to recover. And now, I'm going on a year, a year and a half, and I'm ready. I'm a full one hundred percent."

    On being the oldest player...
    "I get mixed vibes sometimes. I love being the oldest, but then again, sometimes I want a classmate. And it's unfortunate that I don't have one. It's so weird because it happened in high school. I was the only senior on my high school team. I call it fate, I guess. I'm in a great class now, with Barlow, Lech, and Erica Williamson, and I'm glad to be a part of it."

    On returning for a fifth year...
    "I will definitely be here next year because during my sophomore year I changed majors, and in order for me to get my degree, I'll have to stay a fifth year anyway. So that kind of worked out. And then the knee situation happened. So yes, I'm staying for a fifth year. Sometimes I think to myself, 'Oh my God,' because we just took our conditioning test on Monday, and I'm like, 'That could have been my last conditioning test. That could have been my last summer school class.' But no, I have one more year left."

    On having two years together as a team...
    "There's going to be no Senior Night this year. It's actually pretty exciting that this whole team's going to be back for next year. It's kind of amazing to me that we get to take this whole year and rebuild. Build this team up and then you have two years with this team. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm really excited for where this young team is heading because I like the feel of it so far.

    "I actually do [think of this as a two-year process]. Because this first year, we're going to be a little bit inexperienced. But I think this year we're going to get more experience, and more knowledge. I'm excited about our freshmen that are going to make a big impact, then bring it all together. I do think of it as a two-year thing, but we worked hard this summer. We've never had the mindset of saying, 'We've still got one more year.' No. It's this year. We really want to make an impact. We want people to respect us this year. We got it at the end of last season, and we just want to keep running with that."

    On practicing three-point shots...
    "That's one thing that I really wanted to work on this summer was my three-point shot. I'm working on it every day, so hopefully I will definitely take more than two and make more of an impact. Believe me, I took plenty during the week. We use "the gun" (automatic ball-passing and rebounding machine), so we don't really keep count (of how many she makes). But I shot 'em, that's for sure."

    On her expectations for the season...
    "I expect we're going to make mistakes. I expect that we're going to be learning a lot. But then again, I expect that we're going to have a pretty good season. Just because of our inexperience, our motivation, and our drive. Not only our talent but what we're capable of - I think that's going to take us far."

    On their accomplishments last year...
    "It builds our confidence. The older girls now know where they stand and where we should be. I think everyone took that into consideration when we came here in the summer, saying, 'We've got to work harder.' We know we have the talent, we know we can be one of the top teams in the nation. We've just have to put a little (more) hard work into it."

    Junior Center Erica Williamson

    On what her personal expectations are for the season...
    "I definitely want to build on last year. We finished strong with that win against Oklahoma. I kind of had a tough time in the beginning. With Mel(issa) D'Amico leaving as the only back-to-the-basket center, I'm really excited to get in there and show what I can do."

    On where she is physically heading into the start of practice...
    "I'm definitely ready to go for Friday. My body is feeling good and everything is healthy right now, knock on wood."

    On what the team expectations are for the season...
    "We're a young team. The freshmen from last year contributed so much and now they are sophomores. They know that, 'hey, we can make a difference out there.' I think our team is (much) different from last year."

    On what the team's philosophy is for the upcoming season...
    "We did a good job last season of not relying on one person. I think our team is going to do a good job of coming together and every person is going to have to give her all every night in order for us to be successful. We aren't going to be able to rely on one person to carry us."

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