ND Women’s Basketball
Irish open season, preseason WNIT with Chippewas
Benjamin Padanilam | Friday, November 11, 2016
No. 1 Notre Dame will kick off its regular season Friday when it welcomes Central Michigan to Purcell Pavilion for the first round of the preseason WNIT.
The Irish will open their season competing in the 16-team preseason tournament for the fifth time in program history and the first time since 2011, when they lost on the road to the eventual-NCAA champions that year, Baylor, in the tournament’s final game.
This year, as the tournament’s top seed, the Irish would host all four games should they advance at each stage of the bracket. Friday’s game against the Chippewas, however, doubles as the team’s home opener for this season after a single exhibition game against Roberts Wesleyan on Nov. 3, which the Irish won, 129-50.
“We’re really excited that we’re going to get to play really great competition, we’re going to have it all be at home and, really, just get a chance to play with each other and get a feel for how the season is going to be,” Irish sophomore guard Marina Mabrey said of Notre Dame hosting this year’s rendition of the preseason WNIT to begin its season.
On paper, the Chippewas pose a difficult first-round matchup for the Irish. After claiming last season’s MAC West division title and championship appearance in the conference’s postseason tournament, Central Michigan was picked to win the MAC regular season title heading into this year by the conference’s coaches.
The Chippewas are lead by a trio of returning players who averaged double figures in scoring last season. Sophomore guard Presley Hudson led the team with 13.9 points per game last season and led her team in 3-point attempts with 258. Junior forward Tinara Moore finished just behind Hudson at 13.7 points per game while also leading the team in rebounds, averaging 9.6 per game. Junior guard Cassie Breen rounds out the trio, as she scored 12.6 points per game while shooting over 40 percent from the 3-point line last season on 229 attempts. Both Hudson and Moore were also named to preseason All-MAC West team.
Despite the talent of their first opponent and its ability to shoot from beyond the arc, the Irish are treating this game as they would every other, Mabrey said.
“We really prepare for every game the exact same way, so we’re keeping things intense in practice, focusing on what the coaches are saying … really just coming in intense and ready right from the start,” Mabrey said.
That intensity and focus showed through in the team’s exhibition affair against the Redhawks, as the Irish shot nearly 62 percent from the field — including 60 percent from beyond the arc — en route to seeing six players score at least 15 points in the 129-point outburst.
Should the Irish carry that momentum forward and defeat the Chippewas on Friday, other potential matchups for Notre Dame in the tournament field include No. 17 Washington and No. 24 Missouri.
The Irish are not looking ahead, however, but rather are simply looking to capitalize on their excitement and preseason work to start the regular season, Mabrey said.
“We’re really excited,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard in preseason, and I think that we’re just ready for the season to start now.”