Women’s basketball: Ladies roll to Kentucky
After reaching the Final Four twice in the last three years, the Washington University women’s basketball team certainly has its work cut out as it attempts to extend that streak.
With the team’s first match-up on Friday, the Bears find themselves in a very formidable bracket, as seven other teams in the Top 25 of D3hoops.com’s rankings sit in Wash. U.’s group of 16 teams.
“We try not to look at the difficulty of bracket too much ,” senior Zoë Unruh said, “just because it’s more important at this point in the season to look at yourself and focus on how you’re playing versus your opponent.”
The group opens up on Friday at 5 p.m. in Crestview Hills, Ky., where it will face Maryville College (22-5, 13-1 Great South Athletic Conference) out of Maryville, Tenn. The Scots reached the tournament by capturing the GSAC championship.
“They’re a really aggressive defensive team, [and they] really like to push the ball,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “They have a really balanced scoring attack. They’re going to be a formidable opponent.”
If the Bears advance past the first round, they may face their regional host school, No. 16 Thomas Moore College, in the second round. Past the second round could be waiting any one of six other ranked teams, ranging from No. 20 Messiah College in the Sweet 16 to the reigning national champions, No. 5 George Fox University, in the Elite Eight.
The latter of those possibilities is one that the Bears are certainly excited at the chance of experiencing, after the defeat that the Bruins handed them in last year’s championship game.
“I would love to play them again,” Unruh said. “There’s still a lot of emotion from that game. It would be awesome if we both made it to the Elite Eight and we got to play them, simply for revenge’s sake, but it’d be exciting.”
Though the Bears are certainly excited at the possibility of exacting revenge for last season, they recognize that the games have to be handled one at a time.
“In my experiences, tournament runs can pivot on the bounce of a ball or a shot just rolling out,” Fahey said. “We understand it’s very fragile, and right now our respect is just going to Maryville.”
Every returning member of the team has NCAA tournament experience and knows what is coming.
“It’s about going to the game with intensity, and if you know ahead of time that it’s going to be that intense, it might give you an edge, but you definitely can’t take it for granted,” Unruh said. “We do realize it’s a privilege to be in the tournament. We’ve earned it, and now it could be one and done.”
View the full women’s basketball NCAA bracket here.