Oct. 23, 2013
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Following its third consecutive NCAA Women's Final Four appearance and a clean sweep of the BIG EAST Conference regular-season and tournament titles in 2012-13, Notre Dame will begin its inaugural campaign in the Atlantic Coast Conference as the No. 2 team in the annual ACC preseason women's basketball polls, according to separate balloting from the league's Blue Ribbon Panel and 15 head coaches announced Wednesday in conjunction with ACC Women's Basketball Media Day at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.
The Fighting Irish received 14 first-place votes and 794 total points from among the 57 votes cast by the Blue Ribbon Panel, which is comprised mainly of local and national media members. Duke was the Panel's preseason ACC favorite, earning 39 first-place votes and 843 total points.
Rounding out the top five in the Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason Poll were Maryland (745 points, three first-place votes) and North Carolina (715 points, one first-place votes), as well as Florida State and Georgia Tech (each with 527 points).
In the ACC coaches' preseason poll, Notre Dame earned five of the 15 first-place votes and 211 total points. Duke was chosen for the top spot (10 first-place votes, 220 points), while Maryland (195 points), North Carolina (182 points) and Georgia Tech (146 points) completed the upper third of the balloting.
"All you have to do is look at how close the voting was in both polls to see how competitive and exciting ACC women's basketball is going to be this season," Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. "There are seven ACC teams, including Notre Dame and Syracuse, that reached the NCAA tournament last year, and we could easily top that number this year with the development that every team in the league has shown. There's a reason why the ACC is the best conference in the country and it's because the competition and quality of play you're going to see every single night and in every single ACC game is going to be just outstanding.
"We couldn't be happier to be part of the ACC and beginning our first season in the conference," McGraw continued. "We're going to have the chance to develop some new rivalries and restart some old ones, while facing some added challenges like visiting arenas and playing teams we've never seen before. It's a journey that I think everyone associated with Notre Dame women's basketball is excited to begin."
Along with the team balloting, four Notre Dame players received individual accolades as part of the ACC preseason voting that was released Wednesday. Senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) earned a spot on the Preseason All-ACC Team from both the Blue Ribbon Panel and the conference coaches after averaging career highs of 15.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last year, and collecting Associated Press third-team All-America honors as well as a place on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches' All-America Team.
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) joined McBride on this year's Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason All-ACC Team. In her first year as a starter in 2012-13, Achonwa logged 13.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while registering a school-record 19 double-doubles to secure honorable mention All-America citations from both the AP and WBCA. She is coming off another stint with the Canadian Senior Women's National Team, helping her nation earn a silver medal at last month's FIBA Americas Championship in Xalapa, Mexico.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) garnered recognition from the conference coaches with her selection to their Preseason All-ACC Team. Loyd was named the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year last season after posting 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in her rookie season.
Freshman forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) completed the quartet of Notre Dame honorees on Wednesday, earning a spot on the ACC Newcomer Watch Lists from both the Blue Ribbon Panel and the league's coaches.
Reimer averaged 15.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game during her prep career at Hamilton Southeastern High School in suburban Indianapolis. She was a two-time All-American, receiving consensus honors as a senior in 2012-13, including recognition from McDonald's, WBCA, USA Today and MaxPreps. What's more, Reimer was named the 2013 Morgan Wootten National High School Player of the Year, presented by McDonald's, and she is a three-time USA Basketball medalist, including turns with the gold medal-winning American squads at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship (served as captain) and 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
Led by McBride, Achonwa and Loyd, the Fighting Irish have four starters and nine monogram winners returning from last year's team that went 35-2 and was ranked No. 2 in both major national polls at season's end, swept both the BIG EAST Conference regular-season and tournament titles (a combined 19-0 record) and advanced to the NCAA Women's Final Four for the third consecutive season, as well as the fifth time in program history. Notre Dame also welcomes a four-player incoming freshman class that includes Reimer and has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation by multiple recruiting outlets.
The Fighting Irish will open their 2013-14 season with an exhibition game at 7 p.m. (ET) Oct. 30, playing host to California (Pa.) at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame's regular season slate gets underway at 1 p.m. (ET) Nov. 9, when the Fighting Irish welcome UNC Wilmington to Purcell Pavilion.
Single-game tickets for the 2013-14 Notre Dame women's basketball campaign are available by contacting the Murnane Family Ticket Office by phone (574-631-7356) or in person (Gate 9 in the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion) from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) weekdays. Fans also can purchase tickets on-line through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web page (UND.com/buytickets).
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women's basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason Poll
Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason All-ACC Team
Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason Player of the Year
Blue Ribbon Panel Newcomer Watch List*
ACC Coaches Preseason Poll
Coaches Preseason All-ACC Team
Coaches Preseason Player of the Year
Coaches Newcomer Watch List
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director