Notre Dame women's basketball team's road to the ACC tourney
While the Notre Dame men's basketball team has struggled with inexperience, the women's team is the exact opposite. After last year's national championship, there are high expectations for the women's team.
Through high expectations, ups and downs and memorable milestones, it has been an eventful year for Notre Dame women's basketball team.
The goal all along has been to get back to the Final Four and win another national title.
ABC57's Matt Randall takes a look back at this year's season.
“We’re going to get everyone’s best shot. Just being able to come out every game and never look ahead of anybody. Just be 100 percent focused and dialed in, do what we need to do. That’s the key to our success this year," guard Marina Mabrey said.
That mindset and the talent of Notre Dame’s five returning stars yielded plenty of positive results early.
The Irish ran out to a 7-0 record to start the year – before another rivalry clash with UConn.
Despite hanging tough, the Huskies got the better of the top-ranked Irish – an 18-point loss wake-up call to the program.
“I was really disappointed to see the veterans that we have not rise to the occasion. We’re a better team than we showed," Head Coach Muffet McGraw said.
They did look like a better team for the next couple of months.
Notre dame won twelve straight – a run that included the Irish reclaiming the number one ranking and taking down ACC rival Louisville in their second 1-2 matchup of the year.
“The 1 vs. 2, our crowd really gets into the game and I was glad we had a chance to redeem ourselves from the last 1 vs. 2 matchup," Coach McGraw said.
The biggest hiccup of the year came soon after.
Two upset losses at UNC and Miami – dropped the Irish out of the top five – and with plenty of work to do to reclaim an ACC title.
“I’m looking for a team that can do what we did at practice and bring it to the game and we’re not able to do that. Defensively, it’s been our Achilles heel all year long. We’ve lost two games at least because we could not get a stop when we needed to. Until we get better defensively, I don’t know how far we’ll go," Coach McGraw said.
That remains the question as the postseason begins.
Notre Dame seemed to have things worked out with its fair share of positives to take from this season - six wins to close the season.
All five starters named all-ACC – and now all five are 1,000 point scorers with Jackie Young joining the ranks.
Perhaps the biggest moment thus far – Arike Ogunbowale surpassing Skylar Diggins as the all-time leading scorer.
But her mindset after that game – was exactly what the Irish need this time of year.
“Back-to-back. We have a chance to do it this year. We just have to fix a couple things up, but back-to-back is something that hasn’t been done here. That’s what I’m striving for," Ogunbowale said.
To go back to back, a big help would be wrapping up a number one seed in the big dance.
The Irish can do that by winning the ACC tournament this weekend.