On Tuesday night the women's basketball team celebrated the season with their end-of-year awards banquet. With no events left for this team it is time to set our sights on next season, starting with a review of the roster as it currently appears. We'll look at both departing players and new additions, and we can start imagining how the team might come together in the fall.
Graduate student Madison Cable leaves the team after an outstanding season. With Kathryn Westbeld, she was named the co-Most Improved Player at the team's banquet, and also received the Woody Miller Player of the Year award voted on by the local media. In addition to these team honors, she received honorable mention All-American recognition this season and was named the ACC Tournament's Most Valuable Player. She led the ACC in 3-point percentage this year, hitting an impressive 47.1%. Cable is perhaps best known to Notre Dame fans for her intensity on the court, as she could always be counted on to dive for the loose ball, go for the steal, or take a charge. We'll be keeping an eye on the WNBA Draft Thursday night, as some projections have Cable being selected in the third round.
Hannah Huffman received the Spirit Award at the banquet, voted on by the team. Huffman was always invested in the games, and her reactions both from the bench and on the court were always a highlight of big games, so this award seems to fit. She became known in her junior and senior seasons for her skills on defense and was often called upon to guard an opponent's top player. She provided a spark of defense and energy coming off the bench. Fans will recall that it was thanks in large part to Huffman's defense that the team was able to come away with a win at the end of last year's Final Four game against South Carolina and move on to the National Championship game.
Michaela Mabrey has been known all along for her three-point shooting, and was always exciting to watch. She often hit shots from far beyond the arc, making you wonder exactly how far out her range spreads. In addition to her scoring ability, Mabrey became known as a leader for the team this season. She was a vocal presence on the court and also confidently ran the offense on those occasions when Lindsay Allen was on the bench. It seems likely that we will see Mabrey in the crowd for games next year, as younger sister Marina will be a sophomore on the team.
You could easily argue that Taya Reimer shouldn't even be included in this category. She left the team for "personal reasons" in December and announced in February that she will graduate this summer and then transfer. Even before she left the team, she was struggling with an Achilles injury that greatly limited her playing time, so she did not have much of a role on the team this year anyway. However, in the interest of completeness, we'll include her here. Reimer played a key role in the team's Final Four run last year as a sophomore. Her departure was surprising to fans and left the team without much experience in the post; however, Brianna Turner and Kathryn Westbeld now bring significant experience for next season. Reimer announced on Monday that she will be playing at Michigan State next year. While matchups will not be announced until much closer to the season, it is possible that she could face her old team in a Big Ten - ACC Challenge game next season.
In the interest of space we won't break down the individuals here, but will just provide a reminder of the strong core of talent returning to the team.
Lindsay Allen, Kristina Nelson, and Diamond Thompson will comprise next year's senior class. Allen has started every single game of her Notre Dame career, and provides talent and poise at the point guard position. She was named the Monogram Club MVP at Tuesday's awards banquet and also received honorable mention All-American recognition this year. Allen was also a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman award given to the nation's top point guard. Nelson and Thompson add depth to the post rotation. Nelson will have the possibility of a fifth year since she missed her sophomore season after shoulder surgery.
The junior class will include Brianna Turner, Kathryn Westbeld, and Mychal Johnson. Turner was the ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year as well as a consensus All-American this season, all while playing with a shoulder injury that required surgery once the season ended. She is expected to fully recover from that surgery in time to pick up where she left off next season. Westbeld took over a starting role on this year's team following Reimer's departure, and contributed to the team on both ends of the floor. Along with Cable, she was named the team's co-Most Improved Player. Johnson showed her talent for defense this season, and may be called on next year to take a similar role to that of the departing Huffman.
Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale, and Ali Patberg are all likely to play big roles their sophomore year. Mabrey and Ogunbowale were both named to the ACC All-Freshmen Team. Both of these freshmen also had double-figure scoring averages coming off the bench. Their scoring ability and growth during the course of the year suggest that they will be even bigger contributors next season. Ali Patberg tore her ACL during a preseason practice and missed the season while she recovered. She is expected to be ready to play next season. Coming out of high school she was named the MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year, so it will be great to see her back out on the court. Patberg will likely take some of the point guard duties, freeing Allen up to play a more flexible role when needed.
McDonald's All-American Erin Boley will join the team from Kentucky. She was recently named the Gatorade National Player of the Year after receiving the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year award three years in a row. The 6'2'' forward averaged over 24 points and 10 rebounds during her senior season at Elizabethtown High School.
Another McDonald's All-American, 5'11' guard Jackie Young joins Notre Dame from within Indiana. Young was named the Naismith National Player of the Year. She also broke the girls' and overall scoring records for Indiana high school basketball, scoring 3,268 points in her career. Her senior year at Princeton High School she averaged just shy of 35 points and 10 rebounds.
Overall, while the team loses a lot of talent and leadership with the departure of this year's seniors, the future still looks bright. The returning players have already shown their skills and will only continue to improve with the guidance of Notre Dame's coaching staff. A recovered Patberg and incoming freshmen Young and Boley should be able to make an immediate impact. Based on this impressive talent pool, the team seems to have great potential. If they can live up to that potential, we can hope for the start of a new streak of Final Four appearances.