March Madness: Notre Dame hits Oklahoma, returns to Women’s Sweet 16

How sweet for the fighting Irish

As a Notre Dame player and assistant coach, Niele Ivey appeared in 17 NCAA tournaments. She had won national championships in both areas, knowing full well what it was like to thrive on the sport’s biggest stage.

And yet, ahead of his team’s first-round game against UMass this weekend, Ivey experienced a new wave of excitement.

“I feel like a rookie,” she said. “Even though I’ve been there as a player and a coach, an assistant coach, to be here for the first time as a head coach is really special.”

Ivey is in the middle of his second year at the helm of the program. In his first campaign in 2021-21, the Fighting Irish struggled with significant roster turnover and saw their 24-season NCAA Tournament streak come to an end. What happened during that team’s 10-10 season thus helps explain why a year later they have so often discussed wanting to return to this very stage.

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