Irish can't forget heartbreak as they search for 2nd ever national title

By: Angelo DiCarlo Email
By: Angelo DiCarlo Email

Heading into last year's national championship, Skylar Diggins said she didn't want the Irish to be the bridesmaids anymore, but finally the bride.

It didn't work out.

As Notre Dame heads into its 3rd straight Final Four, it has a lingering bad taste of consecutive national title game losses.

Neither was a good feeling. Two years ago, the Irish were a surprise team into the NCAA Finals but led by a half dozen midway through the 2nd half, before Texas A&M rallied to win.

Then junior Dev Peters sat in the locker room with her hands covering her face. She couldn't believe.

But no image defined the heartbreak more than that of then senior Becca Bruszewski when she was asked about her career being over. Becca couldn't answer. She broke down in tears and had to walk away.

A minute later, she returned to answer the question.

"It sucked," Bruszewski said with tears filling her bloodshot eyes.

Notre Dame returned to the national title game last year, only to be overmatched by Britney Griner and Baylor. The Bears were clearly the better team, but that didn't lessen the pain for Irish coach Muffet McGraw.

"Let the waterworks begin," a heartbroken McGraw said as she began to tear up when asked about her seniors. "I was hoping no one would ask that question."

It's a feeling much different than the one McGraw experienced 12 years ago.

"This moment tops anything I've ever experienced in my entire life," McGraw belted over a megaphone as hundreds of Irish fans welcomed Notre Dame home after winning its only national championship in 2001.

Now, This team Wants that feeling. They want to finish the incredible run they've been on.

They want to climb to the ultimate peak and finally win that national championship.

"It would be unbelievable," Irish junior guard Kayla McBride says when asked about winning it all. "Just how far we've come--people were doubting us. Number one seed. Just to prove people wrong. That would be awesome."

This is after all a team no one expected to be back in this position after the loss of three starters from last year's team.

"I would love that," says one of Notre Dame's first year starters Ariel Braker on winning the national title. "Three years in a row coming up short. I'd love to have that."

For Diggins--this is her last shot. A loss in New Orleans puts her in the position to be the senior who can't hold back the tears when reflecting on what almost was.

"I want to win a national championship so badly, not only for myself but for Notre Dame and the city of South Bend, the Irish captain says. "I hold this team and this university on a pedestal. The fans--how proud would they be--I know they will be proud of us regardless--but I want to go out winning our last game, and you know what they say--3rd time is the charm."

What a way that would be to go out--finally as the bride and not the bridesmaid.

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