Nov. 19, 1999
By TOM CASTRO
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With four returning starters, Notre Dame earned the No. 7 ranking in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25. Those four are also the top scorers, giving the Irish a fighting chance to improve upon that ranking by season's end.
Notre Dame, which opens its season Saturday at Toledo, went 26-5 last season and won 17 of its last 20 games.
"Winning a national championship is every team's goal going into the season. It's one of ours," junior center Ruth Riley said. "We have been plagued by injuries in the past, but we have been focused on what we want to accomplish this season. Winning the national championship is one of those goals."
Every team is optimistic before the season, but with a strong returning lineup, Notre Dame's excitement is well founded. Riley averaged 16.6 rebounds and 8.4 rebounds per game, blocked a school-record 101 shots and set an NCAA record by shooting 68.3 from the field.
Notre Dame also will benefit from the return of senior point guard Niele Ivey, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the semifinals of the Big East tournament and missed the postseason.
Toledo is coming off an outstanding 25-6 season. But the Rockets were hit hard by graduation, losing key players Leslie Favre, Kristen Tews and Kim Knuth. The Rockets will miss Knuth, the Mid-American Conference all-time leader in points with 2,509 and steals with 368.
Toledo is counting on the continued development of returning senior starters Jennifer Markwood and Karin Husbeck. Markwood averaged 10.5 points and 8.1 rebounds last season, while Husbeck averaged 8.2 points and 4.0 rebounds.
Seniors Adriane Bryant and Tara Overaitis and sophomore Courtney Risinger are expected to move into the starting lineup.