Oct. 22, 2009
NEW YORK - The Notre Dame women's basketball team has been selected to finish second in the BIG EAST Conference in 2009-10, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches released Thursday morning during the annual BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the ESPN Zone in New York City. The Fighting Irish picked up 210 points and one first-place vote in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points. DePaul and reigning NCAA runner-up Louisville shared the third spot in the BIG EAST preseason poll with 171 points, while Pittsburgh rounded out the top five with 167 points.
Notre Dame returns all 12 players and all five starters from last season's team that posted a 22-9 overall record and a 10-6 record in the BIG EAST (tying for fourth place, its 11th top-four finish in 14 years as a conference member). The Fighting Irish also made their 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance -- and 16th overall -- last year and were ranked 23rd in the final Associated Press poll of the 2008-09 season. Furthermore, Notre Dame adds a two-player freshman class that has been ranked as high as ninth in the country, according to All-Star Girls Report, marking the program's 13th consecutive Top 20 recruiting class.
"We are certainly pleased that we have been voted second in the BIG EAST, which is the nation's toughest conference," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done on our part if we want to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves this season, and we know that while being ranked second in the preseason poll is great, it's where we end up in March that will show if that hard work has paid off."
The conference coaches also voted fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill/Bartlett) and senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) to the 12-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Schrader, a two-time all-conference selection, garnered first-team recognition last year after averaging career highs of 12.6 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game with a .463 field goal percentage. What's more, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a single-season school record for guards, and giving her 11 career double-doubles, one behind current assistant coach Niele Ivey for the Notre Dame all-time record for guards in that category.
Meanwhile, Barlow is another returning two-time all-BIG EAST honoree, having copped second-team laurels a season ago with a team-high 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, as well as a career-high .364 three-point percentage. Barlow is one of only four players in school history to record at least 60 steals in three consecutive seasons (she had a career-high 70 thefts last year) and she and Schrader both are members of Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Club -- Barlow is 20th in program history with 1,107 points, while Schrader is 23rd all-time with 1,057 points.
In addition to the preseason accolades for the two Fighting Irish veterans, rookie guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year, according to the league's head coaches. Diggins was the consensus 2008-09 national high school player of the year, and also was named the '08-09 Gatorade National High School Female Athlete of the Year (for all sports) during a ceremony held just prior to the ESPY Awards this past summer in Los Angeles.
Diggins averaged 29.0 points and 6.3 assists per game as a senior last season, leading Washington High School to the cusp of the Indiana Class 4A title and the mythical prep national championship before a last-second loss in the final. She went on to earn MVP honors at both the McDonald's and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Games (joining former Tennessee guard Alexis Hornbuckle as the only players ever to pull off that double) and she was a co-captain on the 2009 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, back in August.
Notre Dame tips off the 2009-10 season on Nov. 3 with its lone exhibition game, taking on NCAA Division II member Indianapolis at 7 p.m. (ET) inside the newly renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Fighting Irish then will turn their attention to the regular season opener on Nov. 15, also at 7 p.m. (ET) against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion. Tickets for these, and all Notre Dame women's basketball games, may be purchased by contacting the Fighting Irish Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), stopping by the ticket windows located on the second floor of the Joyce Center (via the Gate 1 entrance), or by going on-line to the tickets page of the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com/tickets.
2009-10 BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Preseason Poll