The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be without senior forward Natalie Achonwa likely for more than month with a knee injury according to coach Muffet McGraw on Oct. 31. The Irish are ranked No. 7 in USA Today’s Preseason Coaches Poll.
Achonwa underwent surgery last week for a small meniscus tear in her right knee and is expected to be out four to six weeks, which would mean she would be back before the Irish enter their inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Notre Dame opens ACC play on Jan. 5, against Clemson.
The 6-foot-3 senior averaged 13.8 points and 9.5 rebounds last season. She produced 19 double-doubles to secure honorable mention All-America citations from both the AP and WBCA last year.
Freshman Taya Reimer will get the first opportunity to fill the void left by Achonwa though McGraw said the Irish need someone else to step forward to help ease the load. Reimer scored 27 points and grabbed six rebounds in Notre Dame’s 118-49 exhibition victory over California (Pa.) on Oct. 30. She was a perfect 11-for-11 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
Junior Markisha Wright and freshman Kristina Nelson also will likely get increased minutes. Wright , who was 6-of-12 from the floor, tallied 16 points and grabbed 10 caroms in 23 minutes versus the D-II Vulcans while Nelson added six points, three rebounds and three assists in 12 minutes of action.
Notre Dame, led by senior Kayla McBride and junior Jewell Loyd, should be fine until Achonwa returns but they do face some stiff nonconference foes. The Irish will host Michigan State (Nov. 11) and UCLA (Dec. 7) and travel to Penn State (Dec.4) and Michigan (Dec. 14).
McBride, who was second on the team in scoring last season at 15.9 points a game, and senior forward Ariel Braker also sat out sat out the exhibition games with injuries. Both are expected to play in the Irish’s season opener on Nov. 9, versus UNC Wilmington.