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Now & Then: Women’s basketball – 2001 National Champions

Marissa Frobes | Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The Irish women’s basketball team begins its season Friday at 4 p.m., but the contest against New Hampshire will represent more than just a game — it’ll also be a chance to celebrate.

The 2010-11 season commemorates the 10th anniversary of the program’s only national championship team. The members of that legendary 2000-01 squad will be here Nov. 12 to 14 for a series of events to start the season with the historic championship in mind.

The champion team began its season ranked No. 12 in the pre-season AP poll. They returned three starters: sophomore Alicia Ratay, All-American senior Ruth Riley and fifth-year player Niele Ivey, who is now in her fourth year as an assistant coach for the Irish.

They astonishingly beat UConn in the Big East tournament, ending the Huskies’ 30-game winning streak, along with its rank as No. 1 in the nation. Ultimately, the Irish snagged the championship in a close 68-66 defeat of Purdue at the Savvis Center in St. Louis.

This year’s team kicks off the season ranked No. 6 by the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll with two returning starters, sophomore phenom Skylar Diggins and senior Becca Bruszewski.

Since 2001, Connecticut has earned five NCAA championships, including the last two. Perhaps the visit from the 2001 champions, who stole the No. 1 ranking of UConn in a 92-76 upset, will inspire this year’s team to vanquish Connecticut’s top spot.

They have some great ingredients to be able to do so: Coach Muffet McGraw, who led that team to glory; Diggins, comparable to the title squad’s sophomore guard Alicia Ratay; and help from someone who was there — Ivey, McGraw’s current assistant.

The national title team will sign autographs before Friday’s game against New Hampshire, reunite on the Purcell Pavilion floor at halftime, and take the field at the football game against Utah Saturday for another celebration.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Marissa Frobes at [email protected]