How Notre Dame women’s basketball senior Maddy Westbeld is enjoying every moment
Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program continues to play a major role in the growth of the game and senior forward Maddy Westbeld is at the forefront.
The Kettering, Ohio native is playing her final season for the Irish and she is chasing big goals and soaking in every moment.
Entering the second-annual Citi Shamrock Classic in Washington, D.C. this weekend, Westbeld and No. 16 Notre Dame is off to a 3-1 start. The Irish will take on Illinois at 1:00 PM EST on NBC and Peacock. Both teams enter the contest fresh off mid-week wins as Notre Dame defeated Northwestern 110-52 and Illinois topped Saint Peter’s, 103-33.
When Notre Dame played in the Citi Shamrock Classic last year, it made history by being the first-ever live broadcast of a women’s college basketball game on NBC and Peacock and the first college basketball game of any kind on the network in nearly 25 years.
In an interview with NBC Sports’ Corey Robinson, Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey recounted the experience of playing in the inaugural tournament.
“Being the first historical game on NBC, that was such a big experience for us as a program,” Ivey said. “We’re excited not just to play the game but to give our team another experience. It’s all about empowering our young student-athletes and we’re going to get the chance to do that now in D.C. on another national stage.”
Inside Notre Dame’s experience playing in Paris vs. South Carolina
The Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s 2022-23 season may have ended on a low note with a Sweet 16 loss to Maryland in Greenville, S.C. but they kicked off the 2023-24 campaign on a high in Paris against the No. 1 team in the country in South Carolina.
The matchup marked the first-ever U.S. men’s or women’s college basketball game in Paris.
Westbeld called the game surreal.
“Just the fact that nobody has ever done that before,” Westbeld said. “We were chosen to do it and we got to play against one of the greatest teams in the country. Obviously, the game didn’t turn out how we hoped to and how we prepared to. But there’s no greater fire that we could have thrown ourselves into, to start the season off. And it’s going to be a special season for this team.”
Coach Ivey also appreciated the experience.
“It was unbelievable,” Ivey said. “First-class event. It was what I imagined and more. Our team had a phenomenal time. Not the outcome I wanted as far as the game, but it was a dream come true for me to be a part of this and to bring women’s basketball to the main stage in Paris.”
Maddy Westbeld is living in the moment
As Westbeld looks ahead to the season beyond Paris, she is both excited to compete and conscious of enjoying every opportunity.
“We have a lot of of big games on our schedule,” Westbeld said. “I don’t know what is going to happen after this season, so I’m just really excited for every moment. Enjoy this time right here. Enjoy practice today. Enjoy practice tomorrow.”
For Westbeld, there are no words to describe how she has grown during her time at Notre Dame.
“I feel like I have just blossomed,” Westbeld said. “Every year has been such a journey and I’ve learned so many things. And right now, I’m just trying to focus on a detachment from the game and also from every part of my life right now. I’m just trying to be free.”
In order to practice this mindfulness, Westbeld meditates every day, and she also relies on writing.
“I’m big on the mental side,” Westbeld said. “Because I think longevity in the game is quite literally all mental. I still got a long way to go but I think I’m in the middle of a process of freeing myself from those mental blockades that athletes seem to get. And it’s been a really beautiful journey in that regard.
“I write down a lot of different things. I don’t write every day, but when things start to feel heavy, I do. I’ve really grown into a vulnerable human. And I think it’s a good thing for my game. And for just me as a person.”
Maddy Westbeld’s strengths on and off the court
For Westbeld, her greatest strength on the court is her versatility.
“My whole life, basketball has been my everything, “Westbeld said. “So I’ve been really emotionally attached to it. With all these gifts that I’ve been given on the court, it gets tough to make decisions going into it. So that versatility aspect allows me to see what they give me, because I’m able to do so many things.”
Westbeld has also developed as a leader during her time at Notre Dame.
“My role and my journey has looked different every single year since I’ve been here,” Westbeld said. “Last year, my coach really challenged me to step up and be that vocal leader. I’m just trying to focus right now on doing the best that I can for my team and just be the person that has everybody’s back. If I can lead that way, then I did what I could.”
Westbeld sisters make history
One of the most important people in Westbeld’s life on both a personal and playing level is her sister, Kathryn, who was a senior starter on Notre Dame’s 2018 national title team.
While the two did not overlap at Notre Dame, they still made history together. On March 3, 2023, Maddy scored her 1,000th point in a game against NC State, joining her sister in the 1,000-point club. They are the only two sisters ever to reach 1,000 points in a Notre Dame uniform.
“She is my biggest inspiration every day,” Westbeld said. And she’s somebody that I look up to the most in this world. While our stories are very different, and my legacy is going to look different from hers, I just really, really value the fact that I can look up on the wall and I see my sister every day.
“She’s my best friend. And she’s still playing overseas actually. And so I don’t know what I’m gonna do next year, but our biggest goal ever has been to play together. We’ve never done that before. Playing overseas playing professionally might be our first opportunity to do that.”
Maddy Westbeld’s goals for the future
As far as her big-picture goals, Westbeld has her sights set on one thing: National Championship.
“That’s always been the goal,” Westbeld said. “With personal accolades, I try not to set standards because I feel like I’m almost limiting myself in a way so I just want to be the best that I can be. But from a team perspective, I want to win a national championship.”
When looking back at her time at Notre Dame though, Westbeld wants to be remembered for more than her play on the court.
“I used to think like a legacy meant all the accolades and the awards that you win,” Westbeld said. “But I think a legacy is more so those intangible things. I want people to see that I was always a student and I never stopped learning. That regardless of the circumstance or anything, I was someone who helped on the basketball court, but in the community too, and made Notre Dame better and made South Bend better.”
But for now, Westbeld has some final words on Notre Dame’s potential this season.
“Bounce back is about to be crazy.”