March 1, 2011

14–0! Women's basketball stays perfect

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A 61–51 Chicago win over Wash U on Saturday added yet another achievement to the laundry list that the Maroons have assembled this season. The win sealed an undefeated UAA season for the Maroons, the fifth team in conference history and the first since 2002 to do so, as well as a bid to the D-III NCAA Tournament.

The Maroons also broke another record—Wash U’s. The win was the first home loss for Wash U since the 2008-2009 season, and only their second loss in the last 56 games at the Wash U field house.

“We won at Wash U, which is the hardest place to play, so we’re not really worried where we’re playing,” said third-year forward Bryanne Halfhill, who nearly had a triple-double with 16 points, six assists, and seven rebounds.

The Maroons’ strength on the road will come in handy as they begin postseason play. Despite Chicago’s dominance this season, they were not awarded home-court advantage for the first round of the D-III NCAA Tournament. Instead, they will be forced to travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they play Hanover (25–1) in Friday’s first round.

The win over Wash U was another grind-it-out affair for Chicago, the type of game that they have become very accustomed to winning. Wash U jumped out to an early 8–2 lead on an Annie Sayers jumper, forcing head coach Roussell to burn an early time-out to get his team settled. The time-out paid off, however, as the Maroons would go on a 9–1 run to take an 11–9 lead. They would not trail the rest of the game.

A Wash U layup in the second half brought the score to 31–29, but a 29–10 advantage over the next eight minutes would put the game firmly out of reach. For Chicago, this game was less about finishing the regular season, and more about defeating a storied rival.

“Regardless of the UAA being locked up, this game was a battle of pride,” said third-year forward Meghan Herrick, who posted a game-high 17 points. “Although we had a rocky start and did not actually play all that well, we wanted to win this game so badly we worked hard on every play. By this I mean, we hustled after every loose ball, we played even more physical on defense, and played with every ounce of heart we had.”

“This game especially we got to every loose ball, fought for every rebound, and played harder than the girl guarding us,” said Halfhill.

Defense has been the Maroons’ calling card all season. Between the dominant post presence of Morgan Herrick and third-year forward Taylor Simpson down low and the pestering perimeter defense of Meghan Herrick, Halfhill, and third-year guard Joann Torres, the Maroons are a defensive force to be reckoned with.

However, the offense will need to improve for the Maroons to have a lot of success in the NCAA tournament, according to Roussell. “Our defense has gotten a lot better over the last few weeks which has really changed our team. But on the offensive end we sometimes have periods where we get stagnant and don’t get quality shots; those lapses will sometimes get you beat so we will be addressing that issue this week,” said Roussell.

However, in a historic season marked with records and achievements, the Maroons’ level-headedness and game-at-a-time attitude have kept them hungry all year. When the brackets were announced and Chicago learned that they had not been awarded home-court advantage in the first round, Roussell could only smile. “We’re just happy to be there,” said Roussell.

“I definitely think we deserve and have worked for this success. However, we remain humble and we remain hungry,” said Halfhill. The team has recognized that there is something special brewing whenever they step on the court together.

“I have been on many teams my whole life, and I could honestly say that there is something special about this one. Everyone comments on our chemistry and how well we seem to get along. Each and every person on our team just wants to win and doesn’t care who gets the credit in doing that,” said Halfhill. “We just got shirts made that say ‘Ubuntu,’ which is a philosophy that the success of the group is more important than the success of the individual. We’re aiming to be playing for the next three weeks and to continue to do things that no team in Chicago has ever done before.”