Irish gear up for season opener against Toledo
By KERRY SMITH
Assistant Sports Editor
The Notre Dame women's basketball team begins its quest for a national championship when it opens the regular season against the Rockets of the University of Toledo Saturday.
Returning four starters, as well as four out of five of the team's top scorers, from last season, the Irish enter the season as a team to beat.
Notre Dame currently is ranked seventh and ninth in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA preseason polls, respectively. While the Irish were ranked in the top 10 in national polls for 16 consecutive weeks last year, this season marks the first time they have started a season ranked in single-digits.
The Irish have seen floor time twice this season, earning victories in two home exhibition matches earlier this month.
Freshman guard Alicia Ratay made her mark on the team early, as she led the squad in scoring in both contests. Ratay and her potent three-point shot will replace the only gap in the Irish starting line-up from last year — the vacancy left by three-point record holder Sheila Macmillan.
Senior Niele Ivey returns to the court against the Rockets after a season-ending ACL injury sidelined her in last year's NCAA tournament. Ivey and Ratay, along with Danielle Green, Imani Dunbar, Monique Hernandez and Amanda Barksdale will combine for a productive back court.
At the post, junior center Ruth Riley will continue to anchor the Irish offense. Well on her way to breaking into the 1,000 point club this season, Riley will be a pivotal player both on offense and defense.
Last season Riley led the Irish in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game and rebounding, bringing an average of 8.4 balls down a game. She also set a school record with 101 blocked shots on the season.
Sidelined by an injury to her right ankle which she sustained during practice last week, Riley will most likely return to the court in Saturday's season opener.
Junior forward Kelley Seimon will also play a crucial role for the Irish this season.
The Irish travel to Toledo, looking for a repeat of last year's match-up, when they downed the Rockets 82-64.
Led by senior center Jennifer Markwood, the Rockets offense will center around the post position. Markwood anchored the squad last season, averaging 10.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
The Irish and the Rockets are even in their series at 2-2.
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 19, 1999