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Traveling hordes leave disappointed

Sam Stryker | Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A green mob of Notre Dame fans descended upon Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Tuesday night in hopes of witnessing the women’s basketball team capture its second national title.

Fans rode waves of emotion as the score remained close throughout the game, but the thrilling game ended in defeat for the Irish. Texas A&M secured the national championship for the first time with a 76-70 victory over the Irish.

Sophomore Katherine Damo traveled to Indianapolis to be a part of the student section. She said watching the national championship game in person was an intense experience as the lead changed frequently.

“I would say it was a really exciting game to watch,” she said. “They put on a really good show for us. It was really exciting to the last minute. The whole game was nerve-wracking. We really wanted to win.”

Though star sophomore guard Skylar Diggins led the Fighting Irish with 23 points, Aggies center Danielle Adams countered with 30 and drove the Texas A&M win.

Freshman Aaron Zeese said the Aggies simply played stronger on the national stage than Notre Dame.

“They were pretty solid. They executed better than we did,” he said. “They just did better tonight. [Adams] played a heck of a game.”

Though Texas A&M led by 13 points at one point in the first half, Notre Dame held a 35-33 lead entering halftime. Zeese said he was confident in an Irish victory when the team entered the break.

“It was really devastating and heartbreaking,” he said. “The way the girls were playing at halftime, it seemed like they were going to win, but it just didn’t end up that way.”

Damo said she and her friends began anticipating a national championship after the team’s hot finish to the first 20 minutes.

“At halftime, we were really confident Notre Dame could win. It was really exciting seeing them come back and get the lead at halftime,” she said. “Coming back from the deficit was memorable. It was really scary in the first half. It was particularly exciting to see.”

Sophomore Michael Nelligan said the rally leading into the break was unforgettable.

“I thought the comeback at the first half was memorable, to see them fight back and come from behind,” he said.

Notre Dame had an overwhelming fan turnout, Damo said. She said a noticeable sea of green filled the stands.

“You could definitely see it throughout every single section,” she said. “It might have been three-quarters Notre Dame fans.”

Damo said Fighting Irish fans made their presence known vocally throughout the game. Despite the loss, she said the sense of school pride was memorable.

“I could hear the Notre Dame fans over the A&M fans all the time,” Damo said. “I was just really excited to be a Notre Dame fan, no matter the score.”

The immense attendance of Irish fans contributed to a memorable event, Zeese said.

“It was a great experience and opportunity,” he said. “It was awesome to see so much of the Notre Dame student body at the game.”

Zeese said attending the title game was unlike any Notre Dame athletic experience he had ever witnessed.

“Being at a national championship, the atmosphere is pretty intense,” he said. “It was a great thrill ride, a great experience.”

Nelligan said despite the loss, Notre Dame fought hard. He said he was glad to attend the national championship.

“They played really well, especially Skylar,” Nelligan said. “Just a few plays down the stretch didn’t go their way and went to Texas A&M, but it was good to be here.”

With a strong showing in the tournament, including several upset wins, Nelligan said Notre Dame should be excited for its next season.

“I feel proud of the team for making it this far to the national championship with huge wins over UConn and Tennessee,” he said. “I think the team has huge promise, especially with Skylar. I would say things are looking up.”

Zeese said he hopes the basketball team’s low profile on campus rises with its strong play this spring.

“They deserve a lot more respect than they’re given,” he said. “I hope a lot more students, including myself, go to their home games next season.”

Though the final buzzer just rang for the 2011 championship, Zeese said he is already anticipating next year’s team.

“The team had a heck of a season. They should not get down on this loss,” he said. “I hope they keep it up going into next winter.”