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ND Women’s Basketball: One more warm up

Heather VanHoegarden | Thursday, November 10, 2005

In their last tune-up before the regular season opens on Nov. 18 against Michigan, the Irish look to improve on their first exhibition win, in which they gave up 59 points.

Tonight, No. 15 Notre Dame concludes its two-game exhibition stint against Division-II Ferris State, located in Big Rapids, Mich. The teams will tipoff at 7 p.m. at the Joyce Center.

The Bulldogs finished 11-17 last season, with a 9-9 record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), good for a fourth-place finish in the North Division.

“[Our goals are] similar to last week – defense, rebounding,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We want to play some pressure defense. We want to really work and see how we’re coming together as a team.”

The Bulldogs lose three starters from last year’s team, including forward/center Bridget Horwitz, who was first team all-conference (15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds per game). Leading the returnees is redshirt junior guard Erin Miller out of nearby Niles, Mich., who averaged 17 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in as a sophomore in 2003-04 before sitting out most of last year with an injury. Miller is a familiar face at Notre Dame, as she worked the women’s basketball camps on campus for several summers.

Miller shares the backcourt with junior guard Kristin Reinhart, who averaged 15.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last year. Reinhart, who hails from East Lansing, Mich., was the co-recipient of the team’s Most Valuable Player Award last year while earning second team all-conference honors as well, despite missing the final eight games with an injury.

The Bulldogs are hoping to get back to the form that led them to a 20-win season in 2003-04 and earned their fifth consecutive conference tournament berth under coach Tracey Bloodworth-Fisk, who was named the conference coach of the year that season.

Meanwhile, the Irish are trying to improve on their performance against another Division-II school – the University of Indianapolis. Notre Dame surrendered 23 points to guard Mandy Geryak, and McGraw said after that game she needed to get her team in shape. However, nine days removed, McGraw thinks the Irish are closer to where they need to be.

“I thought we worked really hard this week to get them in shape,” McGraw said. “So I feel better about that.”

The Irish will also benefit from the return of junior Breona Gray, who McGraw said will play after missing last week’s game. Junior Crystal Erwin, who has been bothered by injury, is closer to 100 percent, McGraw said.

“I think we’re getting healthier,” McGraw said. “And I think that’s going to make a big difference.”

Notre Dame is led by senior All-American Megan Duffy, who had 18 points and 7 assists in 32 minutes against Indianapolis. Also playing last week was sophomore guard Tulyah Gaines. Gaines finished with six points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals in 26 minutes of action. Sophomore Charel Allen made her debut last week after having surgery last spring to repair her ACL and MCL in her left knee, which she hurt at the end of last season. She finished with nine points and three rebounds in 16 minutes of action.

However, McGraw is focused on other aspects of the game besides offense.

“I’m not as concerned with the offense, I feel like we’re where we need to be,” McGraw said. “We just need to rebound better. That’s really the biggest thing right now.”