Irish celebrate team full of MVPs
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw pointed the Irish to the national title game for the second consecutive season.
(Irish Sports Report/ROBERT FRANKLIN)
By CURT RALLO
9:00 am, April 23, 2012
Irish Sports Report
Earlier this month, the Notre Dame women’s basketball season ended in tears when the Irish lost to Baylor in the national championship game.
A week after that loss, joy abounded as Notre Dame celebrated a team that displayed the heart and integrity of a champion.
Skylar Diggins earned the Forrest Miller Media Player of the Year Award, and Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters were named co-winners of the Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award.
Coach Muffet McGraw and the Irish celebrated a 35-4 record, the school’s first outright Big East Conference regular-season championship, and a second consecutive trip to the national championship game.
Notre Dame’s remarkable journey included three victories against mighty Connecticut, a program that is now 0-3 against the Irish in national semifinal play. The Irish also scored a historic 72-44 victory against Tennessee, the worst loss in the Pat Summitt era at Tennessee.
McGraw appreciated the upbeat event.
“I was glad tonight was less emotion and more of a celebration of the four years that have been so much fun,” McGraw said.
A sold-out crowd of more than 1,200 fans attended the event at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame’s three MVPs turned in exceptional seasons.
Diggins averaged 16.8 points and pulled off a triple-double in Notre Dame’s 80-49 rout of Maryland in the Raleigh Regional championship.
Peters averaged 11.8 points and 9.3 rebounds, and Novosel averaged 15.2 points.
“I think we did have three MVPs. I think we had maybe four or five MVPs,” McGraw said. “It was really difficult for the players to choose. It was just an amazing season. We shared the ball, we were so unselfish ... we couldn’t have been there without any of them.”
Notre Dame seniors Brittany Mallory, Fraderica Miller, Novosel and Peters basked in the spotlight as videos and touching words celebrated their Irish careers.
“It’s been the most memorable and amazing four years of my life,” Novosel said. “I couldn’t have any regrets. I spent it with the most amazing people.
“I really have had the complete Notre Dame experience. There have been ups and downs, but I’ve persevered through them all, and I couldn’t have done it with a better group of girls.”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg praised the team for its service to the community and for being a source of inspiration.
“You lifted us all up this extraordinary season,” Buttigieg said. “Take a second and think about what it means, for a city that took one after another on the chin economically, for a city that got told by a magazine last year that we were dying, for a city like ours, to see a home team of extraordinary women capture the attention of fans across the country and take it all the way to the national championship — again — I hope you know what that means. You are living the dream of local kids who go to Notre Dame games with their moms growing up. You are that dream.”
Tuesday’s banquet featured plenty of smiles and laughs.
Peters, who fought back from three knee surgeries to emerge as an All-America candidate, recalled her issues with foul trouble and frustration.
“I remember when I was in high school, before a game, when my Dad knew a coach was coming to the game, particularly you (McGraw), he would pull me aside, call me or text me and be like, ‘All right. Don’t show any emotions, keep your attitude to yourself, don’t get frustrated.’ I used to get so mad at him. I’d be like, ‘No. I’m going to do what I do. They need to know what they’re getting into if they’re going to offer me.’”
Peters went on to thank McGraw for taking a chance on her and for having a vision of what she could become, when Peters didn’t see that in herself.
Other players earning honors included Mallory (Defensive Player of the Year), Kayla McBride (Most Improved Player), Whitney Holloway (Spirit Award), and Miller (Rockne Student-Athlete Award).