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ND Women’s Basketball: Schrader returns to the court

Chris Masoud | Tuesday, February 23, 2010

With a two-game losing streak hovering over its head, No. 7 Notre Dame finds itself in unfamiliar territory heading into the last week of the regular season. Fighting for a top seed in the Big East Championship, the Irish (23-3, 10-3 Big East) will have their first chance to exorcise their demons as they host Marquette tonight for Senior Night.

Notre Dame’s fall in the polls and conference standings comes on the heels of senior Lindsay Schrader’s ankle injury that has sidelined the guard for two games. Irish coach Muffet McGraw said she believes Schrader’s return Tuesday will give the Irish a much-needed spark as they look for a return to the win column.

“Getting Lindsay Schrader back is going to be a big part of that,” McGraw said. “It’s Senior Night, we’re playing at home, we have a lot of things going our way right now. I think we just need to gain our confidence back, and just go out and concentrate on the fundamentals.”

Schrader brings a special set of skills with her every time she steps on the court, namely the ability to score, rebound and play lockdown defense when the game is on the line. Nevertheless, Notre Dame features a talented cast that many believed would be able to carry the slack in Schrader’s absence.

“I think it was definitely a shot, shook our confidence a little bit knowing we’ve lost two games without her,” McGraw said. “I think everybody knows we didn’t play well, individually or as a team. It’s disappointing for all of them to be able to look at themselves and know they kind of let the team down.”

Schrader’s return comes at a pivotal point in the season. The Irish have slipped to fourth in the conference standings and face a desperate Marquette team that must win to keep its NCAA Tournament dreams alive.

“It’s always a good game with them,” McGraw said. “They’ve beaten us a couple of times now up there. Every game’s tough, every game. Their backs are against the wall. They want to really try to win this game and we feel kind of the same way.”

The Golden Eagles (14-12, 5-8) are led by junior Angel Robinson, an aggressive point guard averaging 13.3 points and 4.5 assists per game. Complemented by sophomore forward Jessica Pachko in the post, McGraw said she believes Marquette has developed an effective inside-outside offense that may pose a potential mismatch.

Senior guard Melissa Lechlitner said she is optimistic, and believes Schrader’s return and a renewed focus at practice will deliver an Irish victory.

“Anytime you get a player back that’s been injured or has been out for a little bit, it’s always an extra boost, always going to help,” Lechlitner said. “We just need to get back to rebounding and playing defense and getting big stops, just playing Notre Dame basketball.”

Playing in the Purcell Pavilion will be a welcome advantage, but going out with a win on Senior Night should also be a motivating factor for the veteran-heavy squad.

“We have some of the best attendance in the nation, and our fans are the absolute best in the country,” Lechlitner said. “Anytime that we start getting on a little run, we feed off their enthusiasm. It’s not really our last home game, but it’s still really sad the season is coming to an end. Four years are coming to an end. It’s definitely going to be an emotional night.”

The Irish tip-off against the Golden Eagles is at 7 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame’s seven seniors (five players, two managers) will be honored prior to the game.