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Women win ninth home opener

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, November 24, 2003

Before Friday’s game against Valparaiso, head coach Muffet McGraw said that it would be a tough game despite the Crusaders’ 0-2 record.Last season, the Irish didn’t make a basket in the final 4:52, but held on to win 74-68. Two years ago, Notre Dame squeaked out a 42-35 victory only after outscoring the Crusaders 7-2 down the stretch.But Friday was different, as the Irish improved their all-time record to 17-0 against Valparaiso. Friday, Notre Dame dominated throughout the game, as they won 74-57, to extend their winning streak in home openers to nine games.”I was really pleased with the way the game turned out because I thought Jeneka Joyce was the difference in the game,” McGraw said.Joyce came in the game, playing for the first time in a year and a half, to score nine points, on three three-pointers in ten minutes of action.Junior Jacqueline Batteast also played well for the Irish, racking up 15 points and 10 rebounds, to lead No. 20 Notre Dame in both categories. Courtney LaVere added 11 points and six rebounds, and Le’Tania Severe registered 10 points and six assists.Severe and Megan Duffy (nine points, seven assists, six rebounds) were key to the Irish success, as they combined for only three turnovers.”Overall I thought our guards played with a lot of intensity,” McGraw said. “We really, really worked hard defensively and got some fast break opportunities.”These easy buckets helped the Irish shoot 43.3 percent from the field, compared to the Crusaders’ 29.4 percent. The Irish began the game cold from the field, but had a stretch in the first half where they went 7 of 10. Notre Dame took a 32-23 lead into the second half.But the key for the Irish was their defense. On the game, the Irish had 10 blocks and 12 steals as a team. LaVere and Teresa Borton (four points, five rebounds) each had three blocks, which Severe had four steals to lead the Irish, who switched back and forth from man-to-man and zone all game.”In hindsight, we probably could have played a little more zone, but I thought we wanted to work on our man to man,” McGraw said. “I thought we did a lot of good things out of that.”In a game where two Irish starters, Severe and Duffy, were battling sickness, the Irish had to fight hard against the scrappy Crusaders. Valparaiso out rebounded Notre Dame 29-26 in the first half despite an obvious height advantage for the Irish.”They worked hard and they made us work even harder,” McGraw said. “They did a great job with their defense and they are a very good team.”The win gives the Irish a solid start at home.”This year is going to be a special one for us,” Joyce said. “I’m really excited about the team we have and I think were really going to do some good things and I’m glad to be a part of it.