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LI's Danielle Cosgrove,  a freshman at Notre Dame, readies for Final Four

Cosgrove was Newsday's Suffolk Player of the Year last year and now is playing for the defending national champions 

Notre Dame freshman Danielle Cosgrove, center, holds the

Notre Dame freshman Danielle Cosgrove, center, holds the NCAA regional championship trophy with her parents Patrick and Nikki. Danielle Cosgrove graduated from Sachem East last year. Credit: The Cosgrove family

TAMPA, Fla. — It’s been quite a journey for Danielle Cosgrove.

A year ago, she was one of the best high school players on Long Island, having been named Newsday’s Suffolk Player of the Year after averaging 21.5 points and 11.0 rebounds for Sachem East.

Today, the 6-3 Cosgrove is a wide-eyed freshman at Notre Dame hoping to get a chance to play in her first Final Four. The defending champion Irish will meet rival UConn on Friday in the semifinals of the NCAA women’s tournament.

“It’s surreal,” Cosgrove said before her team’s practice Thursday at Amalie Arena. “Going into the season being national champions, I knew it was going to be quite a season. But this is beyond anything I could imagine.

“Just to be here is an honor. It’s been great.”

It’s an honor she’s been able to share with her parents, Nikki and Patrick Cosgrove, in a unique way. Not only are her parents in Tampa for the Final Four, but they have been able to attend a majority of their daughter’s home games this year after buying a second house in South Bend, Indiana, before she started her freshman year. Nikki and Patrick still both work on Long Island and own a home in Holbrook.

“She’s our only child, so we did it to support her as much as the team,” Nikki said. “It’s been really exciting to watch all her years of hard work pay off to be at a school like this.”

Notre Dame starts four seniors and one junior. All five are considered WNBA prospects, which means there aren’t a lot of minutes available for a freshman. In Notre Dame’s 84-68 win over Stanford in the Elite Eight, the five starters played at least 34 minutes each. Cosgrove and two sophomores each got to come in for two minutes. Cosgrove has averaged 4.9 minutes and 1.4 points per game this season.

Cosgrove said playing with so many talented players has really taught her a lot about the game.

“It’s been a huge learning curve,” she said. “Playing behind such great players, you learn and begin to understand what it takes to play at a high level. This year has been interesting as far as taking a step back and figuring out what I need to do to learn to play.”

On Thursday, Cosgrove was learning what it’s like to be getting ready for a game on the biggest stage in women’s sports. Before her team’s practice, more than 50 reporters were in the locker room and ESPN was conducting interviews down the hall.

Said Cosgrove: “Just to be a part of this is amazing.”

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