Students reflect upon the women’s basketball season and look forward to next year
The Notre Dame women’s basketball team went 36-3 this season, ending their run with the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament championship game on April 7. The team went 15-1 in the ACC, topping the conference and advancing to the national championship game for the fourth time in the last five years.
This was only the second time in the history of the NCAA tournament that the same teams played in the final in consecutive years. The rivalry between Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut Huskies is one of the best in recent years. The teams have met for five straight years in the Final Four, with Connecticut winning the championship game in 2014. This year, the Fighting Irish once again fell short against the Huskies, 63-53.
Senior Rae Moors told the Rover, “The game was fantastic. They did everything right, particularly on defense. UConn is just a good team with more experience than us right now.” As a young team starting two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman, the Irish performed well against the now 10-time championship winning team.
“I think they were nervous, which isn’t without warrant,” senior Caitlin Zeiler said to the Rover. “UConn is a great team, and for the freshmen it was their first time playing at this level. We had a lot of unforced turnovers in the first half, which shows that they were nervous, but they can only gain experience going forward.”
The championship loss has not diminished student support for the women’s basketball team. “It is hard to criticize our team,” sophomore Katie Laskey told the Rover. “They put in such tremendous effort but it just didn’t happen against UConn. But my friends and I watched until the end, and they will always be our favorite team!”
In other notable news for the Irish, junior guard Jewell Lloyd announced after the championship that she will forego her senior season with Notre Dame and put her name into consideration for the 2015 WNBA draft. The two-time All-American and ACC Player of the Year is the first women’s player in school history to bypass her senior year for professional basketball.
Unlike men, women rarely leave school early to play professional basketball. Lloyd will turn 22 in October, making her eligible for the WNBA draft.
Many students on campus are disappointed about the news, but they respect Lloyd’s decision. “She is a dynamic and unselfish playmaker for our team,” Laskey said. “We will miss her, but she has to do what she thinks is right for her.”
“It’s something that only she knows all the circumstances of. I understand why people see it as a mistake, but anyone truly upset about it hasn’t thought about it in the same way she has. She’s smart on top of talented and she knows what’s best for her,” Moors commented.
“I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision,” Zeiler added. “Lloyd has done a lot to help the team in her three years here, and I think I can speak for all the students here when I say we wish her the best in the WNBA draft.”
All of the other starters will return to the team next season, along with many other talented players. “Making it to the championship was a big accomplishment with being so young and losing some great players including McBride and Achonwa,” sophomore Tara Carone told the Rover.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected them to play as well as they did,” Zeiler concluded. “They’re such a young team but they really came together this season and were a fun team to watch.”
“Going to women’s games is always so much fun,” Laskey added. “They are such a fun team to watch and obviously they had a fantastic season since they got back to the national championship. With their streak of dominance in the past 5 years or so, they’re going to have more chances to bring home the trophy.”
Next season, the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball program will have the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation. They will welcome a three-player group of Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale, and Ali Patberg.
Alicia Czarnecki is a sophomore studying Environmental Engineering. Contact her at email@example.com.