The injuries. The shortcomings of the NCAA event of earlier years. The Large East Championship loss to UConn. The double-digit deficit on the nationwide championship.
All of this – and extra – solely defines the adversity that the Notre Dame ladies’s basketball crew of 2001 faces. However for a gaggle led by 5 seniors, no adversity was sufficient to maintain them from reaching the top of school basketball and profitable the NCAA event, a excessive not ever achieved by an Irish basketball crew – males or ladies. female.
“We have been clicking via all of the cylinders, our chemistry was superb,” mentioned present Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey – who was a senior fifth yr on that 2001 crew – mentioned. “Ruth Riley suffered plenty of accidents, Kelley Siemon had her hand damaged that yr – we fought so laborious, and our group had such a powerful core.
Ivey herself had struggled with adversity all through her enjoying profession. After selecting a Notre Dame program on the rise as a promising rookie, Ivey suffered two torn ACLs. One value him most of his freshman season. The opposite harm occurred in the course of the 1999 playoffs, as her season ended within the Large East semifinals, whereas the Irish misplaced within the second spherical of the event. In 2001, with this loaded senior squad, Ivey returned to fifth grade as a consequence of a medical crimson shirt, and she or he shortly set on her aim.
“It was my fifth yr, I needed to remain centered,” Ivey mentioned. “I regarded on the schedule with the coaches after which came upon that the Remaining 4 was in St. Louis.
Ivey is from Saint-Louis and the Remaining 4 was alleged to be performed about quarter-hour from her residence.
“I used to be all enterprise,” she says. “It was my motivation, my aim. All I did was put together to attempt to get us there. I used to be very severe about it.
Ivey was actually a frontrunner, however she was not alone in an Irish crew filled with expertise and with excessive expectations. Ruth Riley dominated inside for the Irish, averaging over 18 factors and almost 8 rebounds per recreation. Alicia Ratay shot an unimaginable 55% from 3 factors, whereas Ivey was no slouch herself, shedding triplets at a charge of 44%. Jeneka Joyce was a 38% shooter off the bench, because the trio gained 356 of Notre Dame’s 373 three-point makes an attempt, main the nation’s first 3-point capturing assault. Add in Kelley Siemon and Ericka Haney – each averaging over 11 factors per recreation within the beginning lineup – and the Irish assault was a dominant pressure, with loads of motivation to have painful earlier playoff outings.
“We had all of the elements. That yr that was the blueprint for what a nationwide champion crew ought to seem like, ”mentioned Ivey, referring to the make-up of the Irish squad once they entered the season. “Having 5 seniors that yr, I believe, made the distinction. And after failing in earlier years, we have been prepared.
The Irish have dominated all the season with only a pair of losses, by a mixed three factors to their identify. They prolonged a 25-game profitable streak at residence to 42 with a 17-0 report in opposition to visiting opponents. They survived an early check in opposition to Georgia (75-73) en path to a 23-0 begin to the season. However the undefeated season ended painfully: Ivey had a probably profitable shot blocked as time expired in opposition to No.11 Rutgers resulting in a 54-53 loss. The Irish rebounded with 4 straight wins, together with an 89-33 at Georgetown to finish the common season.
Nonetheless, the playoffs didn’t have a perfect begin for the Irish. After a straightforward Large East semifinal win, they have been stumbled by UConn – Huskies legend Sue Hen pierced a fadeaway jumper to the buzzer for the 78-76 victory and the convention title. However that wasn’t the final time the Irish noticed the Huskies in 2001. And Ivey and the remainder of the squad have been simply getting began.
“We had plenty of expertise and plenty of coronary heart,” mentioned Ivey. “We have been examined in fight, we have been prepared for fight. We now have gained confidence, recreation after recreation. We have been so sharp in each side, we performed with such ardour.
The event loss did not part Notre Dame, who escaped the NCAA Match’s opening weekend with full ease, passing Alcorn State 98-49 and hanging rival Michigan 88-54 to achieve Candy 16, the scene of their final event outing. . Nonetheless, after some early hindrances, the Irish withdrew within the second half to go at the very least one step additional, toppling Utah 69-54. Within the Elite Eight, Notre Dame confronted some adversity, tied at halftime 40-40, however ultimately Riley took over, scoring 32 factors within the recreation, because the Irish managed Vanderbilt 72-64.
The victory meant UConn was subsequent for the Irish within the Remaining 4 – the furthest Notre Dame had ever come ahead. And it regarded just like the street was destined to finish there, because the Huskies took a 16-point lead within the first half and led 52-37 early within the second half with Notre Dame struggling. to do a lot. However management and stability intervened; after sustaining a minor sprain within the first half, Ivey returned within the second half and led the Irish assault, main a 24-7 run. Ratay drilled a three-runner for Notre Dame’s first lead at 61-59, and the Irish did it from there. They held UConn with out a basket for greater than 5 minutes, after stepping again, 65-63. The 14-0 run put Notre Dame within the driver’s seat, and so they sidelined the Huskies, 90-75. Within the first of two Remaining 4 video games in her hometown, Ivey collected 21 factors to place the Irish on the point of historical past.
It hasn’t been simple there, both, as Notre Dame confronted off state rival and 1999 nationwide champion Purdue on the sport’s greatest stage, as soon as once more down double-digit in first half. This time round, there was no big race to take management as Notre Dame collapsed and stored the sport shut at hand. Riley was a dominant pressure all the recreation, scoring 28 factors, 13 rebounds and seven blocks. However a 1-10 efficiency past the arc stored Notre Dame from making main runs. After falling 12 within the first half, Notre Dame nonetheless discovered itself lagging behind, 49-41, with simply over 12 minutes to go. However it’s each the celebrities (Riley, Ivey and Co.) and the underrated actors who’ve come and gone for the Irish. Jeneka Joyce tied the sport with a pair of free throws, and Ivey would give Notre Dame a 64-63 lead with simply over a minute to go. After a 3-point play by Purdue, Riley tied the sport together with his personal shot, received a defensive rebound, was fouled and sank two clutch free throws with 5 seconds left. When Purdue’s final effort failed, the boisterous celebration started.
“I used to be shocked. It was a manifested dream. It was one thing I had visualized that had come to life,” mentioned Ivey. “I simply could not imagine we have been truly experiencing this euphoria.”
Ivey went into extra element about her private journey and what the championship meant to her.
“Positively probably the greatest occasions. I had plenty of adversity to beat, ”she mentioned. “I had 2 ACL surgical procedures, I had a fifth yr. To have the ability to defend your self from these accidents, to be a part of a crew that gained their first nationwide championship … to do one thing so highly effective on this neighborhood and this program is one thing that I’ll by no means take as a right and I’m so blessed to have been a part of it.
Given the schedule for this championship, it is no surprise it meant a lot to the Notre-Dame neighborhood. Lengthy thought of a faculty of soccer, the Irish had struggled on the enjoying discipline, with zero high 10 or bowl wins to their identify since 1994. The Irish had by no means gained a basketball title, however the ladies’s basketball program had been launched. on the verge of consolidating as an elite crew, with a Remaining 4 look in 1997, and 7 consecutive seasons with over 21 wins. The will to convey nationwide championship glory again to South Bend wasn’t only a clear aim for the crew – it was a sense shared between the scholars and the local people.
“We landed at 1 or 2 am and the bus went to Important Circle,” Ivey remembers. “Many followers, college students and folks from the South Bend neighborhood got here to have fun with us. Coming again to campus and with the ability to share this second with the Notre Dame neighborhood and the South Bend neighborhood was actually particular.
Twenty years later, Ivey has continued to assist take the Irish program to new heights. As an assistant underneath her former head coach, Muffett McGraw, Ivey helped information Notre Dame to a 2018 championship. And now she has succeeded the legendary McGraw as head coach of the Irish.
“I’ve all the time needed to return again right here and having this expertise as the top coach of Notre-Dame is a closing second,” mentioned Ivey. “I like this college a lot, I’m so keen about Notre Dame and Notre Dame ladies’s basketball. Now I’ve the possibility to steer this program that I like a lot.
Ivey loves Notre Dame – and she or he could be certain the Irish love her again. As names like Rockne, Montana, Rudy and others populate the custom of blue and gold, Ivey and his crew have etched their very own names into Notre Dame’s superb athletic historical past, creating a brand new precedent for excellence at South Bend.