OKLAHOMA CITY - In the 31-year history of Notre Dame's women's basketball program, the Fighting Irish have had nine All-Americans, played in 15 NCAA Tournaments and won the 2001 national title.
Despite all that success, there has never been anyone that has enjoyed the career of senior Charel Allen.
The two-time All-Big East guard is the only player in Notre Dame's history with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in her career.
"It's kind of amazing with the players we've had come through that she's the only one that's accomplished that," Coach Muffet McGraw said. "So she has left her mark on our program and has been sensational since her freshman year, but this year even more so.
"She's the one who makes the big shots when we need them. She's played well consistently all year long and has had an incredible season."
That season - and her Notre Dame career - continues for at least another day as the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish (25-8) play No. 1 seed Tennessee (32-2) in a Midwest Region semifinal tonight. No. 2 seed Texas A&M (28-7) plays No. 3 Duke (25-9) in the first Midwest Region semifinal at the Ford Center.
"That's what I've thought about every time," Allen said. "'Wow, this could be my last game,' so I don't want to have no regrets. That's how I played the first two rounds."
In Notre Dame's first-round win against 12th-seeded SMU, Allen had 14 points and 11 rebounds. In its second-round upset of No. 4 Oklahoma, Allen carried the Irish with 35 points in the 79-75 overtime win.
"I saw some things out of her against Oklahoma that I had never seen before in terms of emotion," McGraw said. "That game she really demanded the ball, she wanted the ball, she wanted to win so badly, you could see it in her eyes. She always wants to win and she's realizing her career is coming to an end and she doesn't want it to end. She wants to do whatever is necessary."
The 5-foot-11 Allen said she developed her all-around game playing at tiny Monessen (Pa.) High School. She graduated with a senior class of 64.
"I had to do everything. That's what made me a well-rounded player," said Allen, who had dozens of scholarship offers but chose Notre Dame over Maryland and Penn State. "I was able to score, rebound and get some steals and assists. I had to jump center, played point guard, but I didn't guard the point guard, I guarded a forward , I had to rebound, I was underneath on defense. I did everything."
Notre Dame sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader said the Irish want to extend Allen's career as long as possible.
"She's been a great, great force," Schrader said. "Everyone on our team has a role, and Charel's role is scoring. She can score. She keeps putting the ball in the basket. Who wouldn't want to give her the ball?"
Tennessee is well aware of the challenge facing Allen.
"She's an all-around great player who can penetrate and shoot," Lady Vols freshman guard Angie Bjorklund said. "You just have to play great one-on-one defense."
The Irish are 0-19 all-time against Tennessee, a streak Allen and McGraw hope to stop.
"It will be great if I wouldn't have to answer that question anymore," McGraw said. "I think that would be the best thing about it. I feel like it's printed on my forehead: '0-for-Tennessee.'"