With a week off of school for the annual Spring Break, it was a time for many students to relax and get away from school. However, for the women’s basketball team it was a time for hard work. Against four teams who had a combined nine losses, the women cruised into the final four of the NCAA tournament over the past week.
The women did so with an average margin of victory of eight and a half points, their closest game being in the Elite Eight round against Kean University with a final score of 68-65.
‘I think right now we are playing our best basketball and peaking at the right time,” senior guard Jessica Mastronardi said.’I think any team that has to face us has to be feeling nervous about playing the hottest team in the tournament. We just have to keep up our winning attitude our team chemistry has been great and I thinkthat will transfer on the floor in Bloomington, [Ill.].”
The road to the Final Four started with the women hosting the first two rounds of the tournament. The women easily passed in-state rivals SUNY Cortland by almost 20 points in a game that they never fell behind.
The next game against the Eagles of the University of Mary Washington came down to an exciting overtime finish, because the Yellowjackets couldn’t maintain their six-point lead in the final minute of regulation. Overtime, however, belonged to UR as they outscored the eagles, 11-4.
Junior guard Melissa Alwardt was the star of the Sweet 16 round as she scored 25 points and became the 11th player in UR women’s basketball history to pass 1,000 points in her career. With Alwardt’s help, the Yellowjackets triumphed over previously unbeaten Christopher Newport University, 74-69.
‘We have put in so much time and effort this year and it is really starting to pay off,” Alwardt said. ‘The key to our run has been the relentlessness of every single person on the team. Even when we were down we still believed we were going to win. There is no give up in this team. To win a title we are going to need much of the same.”
In the Final Four round the women will face a tough Hope College squad in Bloomington, Ill. on Friday night.
With more impressive statistics this year, Hope looks to be the clear favorite going into the game. After taking down highly ranked competition, the ‘Jackets know that the sky is the limit.
‘We are definitely the underdog but we will be ready to go,” head coach Jim Scheible said. ‘It is a great group to work with and I am really proud as a coach to have an opportunity to work with such a wonderful bunch of talented women. We want to bring it home for [UR].”
Depending on the outcome of the Hope game, the Lady ‘Jackets could be playing on Saturday at noon for the third place game and at 3 p.m. in the championship game.
Manrique is a member of the class of 2012.