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Katie McWilliams Notre Dame preview

Oregon State's Katie McWilliams, left, drives to the basket against Utah Valley on Wednesday. McWilliams remembers the 62-61 loss at Notre Dame two seasons ago and is excited to get another opportunity to face the Fighting Irish on Sunday, this time at home.

Kat Tudor grew up watching women’s basketball programs like Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee and Notre Dame compete for national championships.

When the now-sophomore signed to play at Oregon State, she knew she would get the opportunity to face some of the top teams in the country.

One of those teams comes to town on Sunday when the No. 18 Beavers host No. 6 Notre Dame at 11 a.m. in Gill Coliseum.

“It’s an awesome opportunity,” Tudor said last week. “I just grew up knowing these teams like Notre Dame, Tennessee, like all that and now that I get to actually play against one of those teams it’s pretty cool.”

It will be the third meeting between the two programs in the past five seasons.

The Fighting Irish came to Gill in 2013 and nearly left with a loss as an up-and-coming Beavers team almost pulled off the upset before falling 70-58.

Oregon State came up short at Notre Dame in 2015, dropping a tough 62-61 decision without starting point guard Sydney Wiese.

Win or lose, Sunday’s game is an important one for the Beavers, who are 2-0 and coming off a 98-41 win over Utah Valley on Wednesday.

“We schedule games like this for a reason, everybody does,” coach Scott Rueck said. “There’s obviously RPI reasons and things like that but in my opinion that’s necessary but secondary.

“You want to test yourself against programs that expect to win every night and play at a level of excellence year in and year out and have established cultures. And clearly they’re one of those.”

Notre Dame enters with 2-0 record and is coming off a 78-65 win at Western Kentucky on Tuesday. The Irish demolished Mount St. Mary’s, 121-65, in their opener on Nov. 11.

“They’ve got a wealth of talent, they execute very well and have just a potent offense and a dynamic defense, too, where they change things up,” Rueck said.

The Beavers are excited for the opportunity to grow.

“This is a long journey we’re on and here comes a big test on Sunday, and I’m excited for this team to prepare for them and then to have the opportunity to go out there and really grow out there,” Rueck said on Wednesday night.

Marie Gulich is one of three players on the roster who traveled to Notre Dame in 2015. She says the young Beavers are ready.

“It will be a challenge but I’m personally super excited and I was looking forward to that game,” the senior said after scoring 19 points and hitting all nine of her shots in the win over the Wolverines on Wednesday. “It will show what we’re capable of.”

Katie McWilliams, then a freshman, started just her second game at Notre Dame two seasons ago. She said it will be exciting to get the Fighting Irish at home this time.

“But it’s also good to tell where we’re at, to see if we’re one of those top teams in the country,” McWilliams said. “Notre Dame has always been a great program and I know they’re going to come out with a game plan ready to go, so I’m excited to see what we can do against them and I know everyone else is too.”

McWilliams doesn’t have fond memories of that night in 2015.

“It was very intimidating, very nerve-wracking,” she said. “It was a close game all the way through. Obviously losing by one is never fun so this game here at our home is going to be kind of a revenge game for me.”

Rueck is excited to see what his team can do with the opportunity and for the home fans to see two elite-level teams face off.

“I know we’re going to have a big crowd and it’s going to be a fun place to be in Gill, as it always is,” he said.

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald