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Schedule released for 2004-05 season

Heather VanHoegarden | Thursday, October 7, 2004

The Irish will tip off a 2004 season that includes two top-10 teams and nine NCAA qualifiers from last year with the Preseason Women’s National Invitational after two exhibition games against Premier Sports (Nov. 3) and the Hoosier Lady Stars (Nov. 6).

The schedule, released Wednesday, has the Irish playing 13 games at the Joyce Center, where they were undefeated last season.

The Preseason WNIT is filled with tough teams, including NCAA Elite Eight participant Duke, Pac-10 co-champion Arizona State and Ohio State.

“With the schedule we have lined up, we expect to be tested right from the opening tip this season,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said in a release Wednesday. “Playing in the Preseason WNIT will give us a good indication of where we stand early in the year and it will help to prepare us for the other strong teams that will come later in the season.”

Notre Dame is scheduled to be on national television four times, including contests at Connecticut, last year’s Big East champions and against Purdue, ranked No. 9 to end the year. Both will be on ESPN2.

This year’s schedule will be a tough one for the seasoned 2004-05 Irish team, led by preseason All-American Jacqueline Batteast and point guard Megan Duffy. Last year’s team finished 21-11 and made a Sweet 16 appearance for the fourth time in five years. The Irish return four starters and seven monogram winners from last year’s squad. They will take a 20-game home winning streak into the 2004-05 season.

Notre Dame’s Big East schedule will be especially challenging. Conference play begins Jan. 2 with Seton Hall at home and then continues three days later with Syracuse. Nine Big East teams qualified for the NCAA tournament last season. After those two games, the Irish play three consecutive games against NCAA qualifiers – Villanova, Connecticut and Purdue. Connecticut will return to the Joyce Center Jan. 12 after being upset 66-51 last year by the Irish almost exactly a year earlier (Jan. 13, 2004). The matchup with Purdue is part of ESPN2’s Big East/Big Ten Challenge.

“We are also excited to be playing in the nation’s toughest conference against some very talented, established teams and some other teams that are quickly on the rise,” McGraw said.

Other non-conference opponents include assistant coach Carol Owens’ alma mater, Northern Illinois, who the Irish face Dec. 30 in DeKalb, Ill., in preparation for conference play. The Irish also face Michigan State (Dec. 2), Dayton (Dec. 9), Washington (Dec. 11) and Marquette (Dec. 19).

“Everyone on this team, from the players to the coaches, looks forward to the challenges

that this schedule will present,” McGraw said.

The Irish close the season with five of their last eight games on the road. They face Pittsburgh, Providence, Boston College, Rutgers and Seton Hall during the final February stretch.

The Big East Tournament is set for March 5-8, with the NCAA Tournament set to begin March 19.