NOTRE DAME — Doubtless, this isn't how Taya Reimer imagined her breakout appearance would manifest.
But once Notre Dame's starting post Natalie Achonwa went down with a torn ACL against Baylor Monday, March 31, Reimer's number was called. She'll likely get the start against fourth-seeded Maryland in the Final Four.
Not ideal circumstances, but Reimer is ready.
"Taya has had a very good year," head coach Muffet McGraw said of the 6-foot-3 graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School north of Indianapolis. "I think that she would be a starter for most other programs in the country, and she was able to come off the bench and learn a lot through Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker and she is ready for this opportunity. I think she's been waiting for this opportunity all season long to break into the starting lineup."
Ready or not, the Irish (36-0) take on Maryland (28-6), who finished 11th in the final Associated Press poll, Sunday in Nashville. The Irish beat the Terrapins 87-83 in a regular season battle in January. Achonwa was plagued with early foul trouble, and sat out most of the first half.
Without Achonwa, the Irish struggled to guard Maryland All-American Alyssa Thomas, who finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds. Irish sophomore guard Jewell Loyd came to the rescue with a 31-point performance of her own, which gives McGraw the option of playing a four-guard lineup.
Loyd, Kayla McBride and Lindsay Allen would be joined by hot hands Madison Cable or Michaela Maybrey on the perimeter while Reimer and Ariel Braker work the post.
"We've played the four‑guard lineup before with foul trouble," McGraw said. "It's been very successful for us last year. We haven't played it as much this year because we have so many post players. But we're kind of looking at all the options right now."
Regardless of how big Loyd plays in the post and how well she rebounds, McGraw can't afford to stick the 5-foot-10 point guard on a 6-2 post.
Thomas, Maryland's career-leading scorer who averages 19.1 points and 11 rebounds per game, tallied 22 points and 13 rebounds in the Terps' Elite Eight win over No. 3 seed Louisville.
"I don't know that you can match up with a Alyssa Thomas with a guard because she's so good around the basket," McGraw said. "I think her strength is really rebounding. That girl is relentless. She plays so hard, it's really, really hard to guard her because she's so active going after the ball. I think you need somebody strong to try to guard her, and we really did a poor job last time."
Paging Taya Reimer.
The big stage is calling.