Irish don green jerseys for St. Patrick's day game
Assistant Sports Editor
A few moments before the starting lineups were announced on Friday night, the sparse Joyce Center crowd suddenly came alive.
It wasn't for a celebrity sighting or an obnoxious fan making a scene.
But rather the Irish fans' reaction was directed towards the women's basketball team's choice of attire for their first round NCAA tournament game against San Diego. As they headed towards the bench to prepare for their introductions, the Irish players took off their warm-ups, revealing predominantly green uniforms, with white numbers outlined in gold, appropriate for St. Patrick's Day.
"We wanted to save them for tonight," head coach Muffet McGraw said referring to the uniforms. "San Diego was nice enough to wear their light uniforms."
The relatively new uniforms paid dividends for the Irish, at least according to the players, as they rolled to an 87-61 victory. Whether they wore white, blue, red, or yellow uniforms, it was quite obvious they still would have beaten the overmatched Toreros.
But don't tell that to this superstitious team.
Amidst all the quiet confidence, obvious talent and cohesion of the No. 6 Notre Dame team lies a group that truly believes in their rituals.
For seniors Julie Henderson and Danielle Green, who always room together on road trips, their game day starts at 8 a.m. with a call from Mrs. Henderson.
"One day we did that [having Mrs. Henderson call] and me and Danielle both had excellent games," Henderson said. "So we've done it ever since."
Niele Ivey's mother leaves a message on the voice mail before each game, which the players must listen to. The starting point guard also always wears a red sports bra under her uniform.
Ruth Riley is known for her white Adidas headband. But she only wears it during games. In practices, the All-American center is headband-free. And after each game, she tosses the sweaty accessory into the crowd for some lucky fan.
The Irish's pre-game routine would make the Armed forces proud. Prior to each game, during stretching drills, the Irish players sit in a certain order in the circle. On the road the order is different from the home games but is always consistent.
"You have your away positions and your home positions," Henderson said.
Then as they head to the Joyce Center from their stretching exercises in the Pit, the team sings a special song, always the same one, out loud. Last year the song was "It's so hard to say Goodbye" by Boyz II Men. This season, it's a secret.
"We'd rather not say what the song is," said a group of players including Henderson, Meaghan Leahy and Imani Dunbar, "But Niele [Ivey] is the best singer."
While they won't reveal their lucky pre-game song, the Irish players did acknowledge that their team song (which is different than the pre-game tune) has changed from Sisco's "Thong Song" during the regular season to
Sonique's "It feels so good" for the NCAA's.
As they prepare for warm-up drills, Henderson leads the team but Kelley Siemon must go first in all the drills. Except for the free throw shooting drills where Henderson goes first and Alicia Ratay shoots third. Henderson also touches the "Attitude of a Champion" sign in their locker room first before the team enters the arena.
During the NCAA tournament, the Irish become even more superstitious.
The players approached McGraw before the season began, asking for the green uniforms. It wasn't an easy proposition, as they first had to get approval from the administration. The powers-to-be complied with their
request but stipulated that they only wear them on certain occasions. This weekend's games was the fourth and fifth times they wore the new uniforms on the season, the first three coming earlier in the season in victories over North Carolina and Liberty in the Wachovia Women's Invitational and a loss at Purdue.
After winning the first two games in the NCAA's wearing the green, the Irish have come up with a sensible conclusion.
"We'll wear them as long as we can," Henderson said.
In addition to the green uniforms, the entire team paints their nails green for the tournament, including the managers, trainers, and anyone associated with the team. Even the males have one of their pinky fingers decorated in green. Radio announcer Jeremy Gray has also been coerced to paint his pinky.
A new tradition also began this weekend. Just as they were about to head to the sidelines for the beginning of Friday's game, Ivey and Erika Haney began to dance a jig. The rest of the team followed the duo's lead, huddling in a circle and showing some dance steps. Accordingly, the Irish gathered for their rendition of the jig before Sunday's second round victory over George Washington.
These are only some of the rituals followed by this successful Irish team, which heads to Memphis this weekend for the Sweet Sixteen against Texas Tech and then possibly Tennessee.
Henderson explains the team's reasoning behind keeping some of the team's superstitions a secret.
"I can't tell all of them," Henderson said, "because they'd jinx us."
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, March 21, 2000