The most successful season in the history of UR women’s basketball came to a close this weekend with two tough losses in the NCAA Div. III Tournament. In their first trip to the Final Four, UR suffered losses to eventual champion Trinity University of Texas in the semi-finals and the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire in the third place game. The losses placed the Yellowjackets fourth in the nation and the team finished their year with a 24-6 record, setting the record for the most victories that the program has ever had.
Going into the semifinals, UR knew that Trinity would be a dangerous team. “They [Trinity] beat Wash U by 19, that’s pretty impressive,” head coach Jim Scheible said. “They were an a quite team heading into the tournament, but after seeing them play I don’t think anyone was suprised that they won.”
Trinity was a team that was just a little too big and talented for the Yellowjackets. UR held the lead up for the first ten minutes of the game, but with 9:35 left in the first half the Trinity Tigers pulled ahead 18-16. From this point Trinity never relinquished the lead and pulled away in the second half by extending a four point lead to a 21 point lead after going on a 20-3 run.
In order to beat the Tigers the jumpshot would have had to fall for UR. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for the Yellowjackets who shot a dissappointing 33 percent from the field and were a dismal 2-11 from beyond the arc.
UR put forth an intense effort, but Trinity was just too strong on this night. UR finished with a 14-3 run in the last five minutes but it was too late and UR fell 63-54.”The game was a great indicator of where we need to be in order to win a national championship,” Scheible said.
The loss sent UR to the consolation game where they met up with number one ranked Eau-Claire, who had lost to Eastern Connecticut State University in the other semifinal. Despite the intensity of the Trinity game, it would prove to only be a precursor to the epic battle between UR and the Eau-Claire Blugolds.
The contest turned out to be a classic thriller. Coming off of losses neither team had much to lose and wanted to end their seasons with pride.
Eau-Claire went 17-0 in a strong Wisconsin conference so UR knew it would be a tough game.
Going into halftime Eau-Claire was on top 32-28. The Blugolds padded their lead when they capped off a 12-3 with just over eight minutes remaining, putting Eau-Claire ahead 51-43.
Over the next six minutes junior gaurd Erika Smith and sophomore forward Kelly Wescott outscored Eau-Claire 12-2 and put UR on top 55-53 with two minutes remaining.
With 38 seconds left in regulation UR found itself with a 58-57 lead and the ball. Coming out of a timeout, Smith drove upcourt and found sophomore center Megan Fish for a layup, putting UR ahead by three with 32 seconds remaining.
Eau-Claire tied it up at 60 and sent the game into overtime. In overtime, each team amassed only four points, ending the first overtime with the score knotted at 64, sending the game into a second overtime. In the second overtime, UR was outscored 18-13 and both teams saw the war end with UR falling 82-77.
The teams went into the contest knowing it was their last game of the season and they left everything they had on the court. “This was definitely one of the best games that I have ever been involved in,” Scheible said. “We used both of these [Final Four] games to show that we belonged here, unfortunately we were on the downside of both of them.”
Both teams had strong defensive efforts. Senior Sarah Sullivan stepped it up on the defensive end for the Yellowjackets. Offensively Wescott and Smith both had 26 points. Along with putting up a career high 26 points, Wescott also pulled down a career high 16 rebounds. For her performance in the tournament, Wescott was named to the All-Tournament team. Smith was recently named the ECAC Upstate NY Women’s Basketball Player of the Year and was named as a First-Team All-American – the team’s first since 1982.
The run in the tournament was a great way to send off seniors Anne Gotstein and Sullivan. “Both seniors were an integral part of our success this season, and they will be missed,” Scheible said. “The support from the administrators and students that travelled to the games created a great atmosphere, one that we hope to enjoy again next year.”
As far as the future of the team is concerned, the Yellowjackets are returning a strong core of players and will look for continued success.
Fitzsimmons can be reached at email@example.com.