Notre Dame freshman Mikayla Vaughn out for rest of the season with torn ACL

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s ACL epidemic continues, with the latest “heartbreaking” hit coming as the Irish are preparing for Sunday’s showdown against No. 1 Connecticut.

Freshman center Mikayla Vaughn suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during practice Tuesday, becoming the third member of the current ND women’s basketball team to sustain that same season-ending setback.

“Another heartbreaking injury,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw told The Tribune in a text shortly after the school made an announcement Thursday night. “Mikayla was off to a great start and gave us a big lift off the bench. We will really miss her.”

The 6-foot-3 Vaughn was averaging 8.0 points — tops among the team’s reserves — and 4.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. She was also shooting 62.2 percent from the field.

“Lot of emotion,” McGraw acknowledged in her text. “She’s handling it really well — came to Michigan for our game last night.”

Vaughn, from Philadelphia, Pa., watched in street clothes as the No. 3-ranked Irish improved to 7-0 with an 83-63 win over the Wolverines.

With her joining All-American forward Brianna Turner and backup guard Mychal Johnson as Notre Dame players sidelined for the season, the team is down to eight healthy scholarship individuals, plus a pair of walk-ons.

Turner suffered a ruptured left ACL during the NCAA Tournament last March. She announced in September that she would sit out all of the 2017-18 season while continuing her rehabilitation with the intention of playing for the Irish in 2018-19.

Johnson suffered a torn ACL during practice on Oct. 23. She has not announced whether she plans to use her remaining season of eligibility next winter.

Without Vaughn, Notre Dame’s remaining interior players on scholarship are junior starter Jessica Shepard (13.0 points, team-leading 8.9 rebounds), freshman Danielle Patterson, and seniors Kristina Nelson and Kathryn Westbeld.

Westbeld, a starter the previous two years, has been limited in game and practice time by her continuing recovery from April ankle surgery, but has delivered a spark when called upon. She’s averaging 3.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per game.

Nelson, ND’s lone active fifth-year player, contributed key minutes off the bench during the team’s 92-85 win over then No. 3 South Carolina in the championship of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Sunday in Estero, Fla. She’s at 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per outing.

Patterson, a 2017 McDonald’s All-American from Brooklyn, N.Y., is at 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.4 minutes per contest.

Meanwhile, guards Arike Ogunbowale and Jackie Young continue to star for the Irish, with guards Marina Mabrey and Lili Thompson also typically starting and making major contributions.

Notre Dame’s game Sunday against the Huskies (6-0) in Hartford, Conn., is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start on ESPN.

Notre Dame freshman forward Mikayla Vaughn (30) will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in practice on Tuesday. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)