Notre Dame down to eight available players going into NCAA Tournament 

SOUTH BEND, Ind – The absence of Kylee Watson is just another hurdle Niele Ivey will jump as the fourth-year head coach adjusts her roster for the big dance.

Watson tore her ACL in the ACC tournament semi-final win over Virginia Tech. It sounds like a big blow, but Ivey isn't treating it that way.

"Unfortunately, we had a very similar situation last year, so understanding what this team needs. I've just pivoted from the Virginia Tech game, losing Kylee, just have had to pivot, change roles, you know, started a new starter," Ivey said.

Moving into Watson's starting center role is Natalija Marshall, a 6'5 senior from Queens, New York, averaging 5 points in 18 minutes off the bench.

"I don't feel pressure at all. You know, I think I've worked for four years for this. You know, my coaches and teammates have confidence in me, and I have confidence in myself more importantly," said Marshall.

"And yeah, you know, I've been getting you know, great reps in practice. The last few weeks ACC tournament was a great building steppingstone for us. So yeah, I'm ready. I'm really excited to come out tomorrow," Marshall added.

The long list of injuries is familiar for Ivey, but unlike last year when star point guard Olivia Miles tore her ACL in the final regular season game of the year versus Louisville, Notre Dame has another star point guard running the show. ACC Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year, Hannah Hidalgo.

As a freshman, Hidalgo is one of the best in the country, men or women, averaging 23 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, 5 assists per game, and 4 steals per game.

Saturday's game against Kent State is her first taste of March Madness.

"Just to be in this type of atmosphere. You know, it's something that I've never been a part of before. And so, to be able to be, you know, on my home floor with, you know, all my friends, just our families, just gonna be exciting," Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo is just one piece to the lethal trio. The veterans Maddy Westbeld and Sonia Citron are pivotal to the team's success. In addition, the duo played in the first two rounds last year at Notre Dame as the 3 seed.

"It's March Madness, you know, we will see me yesterday. You know, it's not, talent isn't enough, every game is who's more hungry for it. And so that's what we're just trying to communicate to every person on the team," Westbeld mentioned.

When asked how to the Irish will come out strong Saturday afternoon after 12 days off, the vets kept it simple.

"If you can get up for a March Madness game and be excited for that, even if we haven't played in a while, then what game can you get up for? So, I think it's just going to be us being excited and ready to play and just treating it like what it is, it's a March Madness game. So, it means everything," Citron said.

Saturday's game between the Irish and Kent State tips off at 2:15 p.m. EST. 

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