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ND Women’s Basketball

O’Boyle: Notre Dame’s success this season due to team as a whole

| Tuesday, March 27, 2018

SPOKANE, Wash. — After Oregon fans left Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and the Irish faithful waited for head coach Muffet McGraw to finish cutting down the nets, a staff member at the stadium rolled up one of large the banners reading “NCAA Spokane Regional” that lined the court.

“Where do you keep those? Like, can I have it?” Brianna Turner asked.

Turner wasn’t allowed to keep the banner. I’m not sure where it goes, but apparently not back to South Bend with Notre Dame’s injured senior forward.

Turner, probably still the best player on this Irish roster, didn’t play a minute this season. We knew that was going to happen before any basketball had been played.

She almost certainly could have come back and instantly made a huge impact, but McGraw made a decision: This year would be a bit of a step back, and next year would be the one to really chase a championship.

But Turner was the one who asked for the banner. Turner was the first player who climbed the ladder and began cutting down the net. Turner was the one picking confetti off the floor to throw it over junior forward Jessica Shepard, even though Turner may have to adapt her game to make sure we keep seeing the best of Shepard next year.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer
Irish sophomore guard Jackie Young looks to inbounds the ball during Notre Dame’s 84-74 win over Oregon on Monday at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

The story of this Notre Dame team started over a year ago when Turner fell to the floor after a dominant second quarter against Purdue. And while it’s the low number of healthy scholarship players that is the center of attention for Notre Dame, this team is about more than just the players who see the court regularly. What the healthy scholarship players have done always comes first and it is incredible, but the four injured players and three walk-ons deserve every second of this as well. Jessica Shepard certainly knows that.

“I’m just proud of everyone in that locker room, from the four that tore the ACLs that are there every day at practice, giving their best for us [to] the walk-ons that come on every day at practice, practice hard against us,” Shepard said. “It’s not easy. Just proud of this team. I think you look at what we do have, and that’s really the key to this team. I think we’re just relentless. We’re not going to settle for anything less than our best.”

But beyond her own status on the team, Turner taking a souvenir reflects the fact the Irish know this is already a huge achievement.

They’ll say they aren’t done, they’ll do everything they can to win a championship, but the chances are high it ends in the Final Four against UConn. The Huskies are just a level above any other team in the sport. What can you even say about them that’s not been said? Maybe only that articles that mention UConn are more likely to get shared on their message-boards and give our website plenty of clicks.

For now, let’s not dwell on Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma’s team steamrolling the nation. They’re talented, they’re extremely motivated thanks to a story for this season that also goes back to last year’s tournament, and Notre Dame will probably need to produce a whole new kind of miracle to defeat them.

When the Irish play the Huskies this weekend, maybe you’ll hear it talked about as a matchup of one of the most dominant squads of the greatest dynasty in sports history against a team of just seven players.

Yes, Notre Dame has only seven scholarship players who’ve seen the court.

But they’ve made it this far because they have an entire squad. And if they do somehow make it any further, you can bet it’s for that exact same reason.

So I hope Brianna Turner got more memorabilia than just the standard shirt and hat. I hope each of the “tore four” did. They deserve it.

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

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel