After finishing the regular season with an 16-9 overall record, the women’s basketball team will have a chance to defend its Upstate East Coast Athletic Conference Championship this weekend at the Louis Alexander Palestra.

UR was awarded the privilege of hosting the tournament despite receiving the second seed in a four-team field after the No. 1 seed, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (18-6 overall), declined to put in a bid to host the tournament, which features some of the top teams in Upstate New York.

Rounding out the field are No. 3 seed William Smith College (17-9 overall) and No. 4 St. John Fisher College (18-7 overall).

The tournament will begin Saturday, March 2 at noon when RPI takes on St. John Fisher.

UR will face the Herons of William Smith in the second semi-final game at 2 p.m. The championship game will pair the winners of both semi-final games in a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. Admission to all three games is free.

The home-court advantage takes on special significance for the Yellowjackets, who have dominated at home all season while often struggling on the road. UR has an impressive 11-2 record at the Palestra in contrast to a 4-7 record on the road.

In conference competition, the Yellowjackets went 6-1 at home, losing only to the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Washington University, at the buzzer by a score of 62-60.

Although disappointed by not making the NCAA Tournament, assistant coach Beth O’Boyle says ECACs will be “another challenge” for the team and “a great opportunity for the younger players to experience the pressure and excitement of post-season play.”

Junior forward Sarah Sullivan agreed, adding that “in preparation for postseason play like the ECACs, we are preparing for the future and NCAAs as well. ECACs give us the benefit of being able to compete in postseason and our team is looking forward to it as another way of demonstrating our strength in the region.”

The Yellow-jackets have already proven themselves against both William Smith and St. John Fisher Colleges, beating them 65-51 and 52-47, respectively, earlier in the regular season.

Looking specifically towards Saturday’s match-up, O’Boyle expects a “very competitive game. William Smith will definitely come out ready to play. The last time we met, both teams played really intense defense. We executed well in the second half, and we’ll need to do that again to get the win.”

While the Herons are coming off a 70-46 pounding by St. Lawrence University in the finals of the Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association, UR is returning from a 63-59 loss to Carnegie Mellon University on Saturday, Feb. 23 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

After trailing by as many as 13 points, UR rallied to within two points several times during the game, but couldn’t pull ahead of the Tartans, who finished the season 14-11 overall and seventh of eight teams in the UAA.

Sullivan led UR’s comeback effort with a season-high 17 points in addition to six rebounds. Freshman forward Kelly Wescott scored 12 points and pulled down six rebounds while sophomore guard Erika Smith added 10 points.

O’Boyle praised Sullivan for “playing really well confidence-wise during practice and bringing that to the game.”

In addition, she commended sophomore forward Bekah Jones for “coming off the bench and both scoring and getting some key rebounds. It’s really good to see different players contribute. We’ve been talking about it all season ? depth is definitely one of our biggest assets.”

Road losses hurt standings

The loss to Carnegie rounded out UR’s UAA competition. The Yellowjackets finished with an in-conference record of 7-7, tying for third place in the conference with New York University behind Washington University (14-0) and Case Western Reserve University (10-4).

Sullivan was pleased with the team’s overall performance during the season.

“Obviously we’re looking to improve every year, and we beat some big time teams this year, but our record was a little disappointing,” she said.

“We lost some games on the road that we should have definitely won, but looking at the big picture, I’m pleased with our performance and the fact that we demonstrated that we are among the elite and can play with anyone.”

Seferiadis can be reached at jseferiadis@campustimes.org.



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