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Ivey outlines Notre Dame women's basketball progress, roster

October 28, 2020
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Niele Ivey's first few months atop the Notre Dame women's basketball program hardly could be any more laden with obstacles.

Ivey's introductory press conference, and more importantly her first team meeting, came via Zoom as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted any semblance of normalcy.

Recruiting and summer camps both were halted by the NCAA; Ivey didn't get to begin working with her inaugural Notre Dame squad into well into the summer.

Yet the former Irish All-America selection and member of the program's first-ever national championship team hasn't yielded in the process initiated when she agreed to replace Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw.

“I've been preparing for this moment for a long time,” said Ivey, who officially opened practice with the Irish earlier this month. “So stepping on that court the first day felt like full circle me, being back here at Notre Dame but also just having that dream come true, really.

“This is what I've been working, to be in this position and it's been an incredible feeling, an incredible moment for me being able to lead the program that I love so much.”

When exactly Ivey will lead the Irish into their first game of an altered 2020-21 basketball season – COVID-19 has wrecked schedules, already caused cancellation of preseason tournaments and threatened to eliminate almost all non-conference games --- has yet to be fully confirmed.

Ivey did share that Notre Dame will play a 20-game Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, same as the men's format for the league, and said Monday that non-conference contests would be capped at a maximum of five.

However, since that time, various scheduled Multi-Team Events (MTEs), as the NCAA has termed them, have been labeled as likely to be cancelled. Orlando, Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington and other regional cities had emerged as expected sites for the MTEs. The University of Kentucky had worked to have a men's and women's MTE showcase in late-November, but a nationwide COVID-19 uptick and postponement of multiple college football games has left basketball's scheduling picture clouded.

“I'm hoping that (the schedule) will be revealed to everyone in about a week or so, but we definitely have been flexible because of all the challenges with COVID,” said Ivey, who noted ACC play has been scheduled to begin on Dec. 10. “Just excited to be able to say that we can start playing soon at the end of November.”

However, Ivey shared, since players returned to campus on Aug. 11, the women's basketball team has maintained its regular testing program for COVID-19 and not yet endured any stoppages in their conditioning, and more recently, practices across the past 11 weeks.

“Right now we're very fortunate that we haven't had any stoppage of play,” Ivey said. “Since we started Aug. 10, we've had to go through different phases, Phase 1 and 2 we only had one coach with a player and we're still in masks; then it progressed to Phase 4 where we can have 5-on-5, but luckily we've been healthy and again, I have an incredible staff and an incredible medical team and we're prepared for any and everything.”

IVEY UPDATES ROSTER

Besieged by injuries and youth a year ago, Notre Dame has revamped its roster and also worked to get back some of its key players from injury. Ivey said that Mikayla Vaughn has progressed well from ACL repair; the coach noted Vaughn has cleared the seven-month-mark in her rehab and returned to work in limited form. Ivey was especially pleased with progress of Anaya Peoples, a former top-25 national recruit and 2019 McDonald's All-American who injured her shoulder in mid-January. Ivey said she's “very excited” about the development and growth of Peoples' game, as well as her return to health. 2019-20 freshman standout Sam Brunelle also has recovered from tendinitis, Ivey said.

 
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