It may have not gone the way they wanted, but the University of Dallas women’s basketball team’s tournament loss to Austin College on Friday, Feb. 24 was a fitting end to an interesting season. The team played hard and never backed down as they went toe-to-toe with a better team. But in the end, the Crusaders fell just a little short.
“I had about four or five people come up to me after the game that I didn’t know telling me how hard we played,” head coach Greta Grothe said.
It was an interesting match-up, as both teams dominated segments of the game, but it ended with a 54-58 victory for Austin College.
The ‘Roos controlled the first quarter, leading 9-19 after the first 10 minutes and extending it to a 9-21 at the 8:25 mark. Junior Crusader Michelle DeCoud ended their run with a jump shot and a free throw. Then freshman Celsi Caraway took over, knocking down three consecutive 3-pointers to cap off a 12-0 run that tied the game with 4:34 left.
The defense tightened up afterwards, however, and Austin took a 23-24 lead into the break. The 5-point second quarter was a staple for the Dallas defense this season; they often had a dominant defensive quarter at some point during their games.
The three-point line continued to be Dallas’ biggest weapon in the third quarter, during which, after Austin jumped out to an early 25-29 lead, the Crusaders got 3-pointers from seniors Caitlyn Worry, Holly Tonry and Seana Stoia en route to a 43-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The offense stalled at that point, however, as the Crusaders went on a 5:50 scoring drought while Austin regained the lead 45-43, and the Crusaders never got it back as they continued to put the ‘Roos at the free-throw line and had their own offensive struggles.
“We were up seven at the end of the third and we just got stuck at 43 for a long time,” Grothe said. “If we didn’t put them on the line we would’ve won the game.”
She was right, as the Crusaders held Austin to just 15 made field goals for the entire game (26.3 percent) and 4-19 from the three-point line (19 percent). The ‘Roos went 24-29 (82.8 percent) from the free throw line, however, compared to 6-13 (46.2 percent) for the Crusaders.
“We didn’t just roll over,” junior forward DeCoud said. “I obviously wish we could’ve gone out of that game with a win but I guess it just wasn’t our time.”
DeCoud led the Crusaders with 14 points and 13 rebounds; her 12th double-double of the season, while frontcourt mate Stoia had 12 points and 13 rebounds, her seventh double-double.
The two dominant post players were honored for their season-long efforts, as DeCoud was named to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) All-Conference 2nd Team, and Stoia was an honorable mention.
“I’m very humbled and thankful that I was selected for a conference award, but I also couldn’t have done any of it without my teammates and coaches,” DeCoud said. “I think other people on the team should’ve also been recognized, but I’m shamelessly biased because I appreciate all of them so much.”
This was the end of the road for six UD seniors, including starters Tonry, Stoia, Worry and Sammi Tso, along with Lindsey Gendron and Bethany Pugh. Tso went down with a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 13, but, as a captain, remained an integral part of the team.
“[These seniors are]the best leaders I’ve ever had,” Grothe said . “From our captains, Sammi and Holly, to even our seniors that didn’t play much, they were our leaders on the bench. Our team chemistry was so high because of our seniors, not because of me.”
Those seniors are appreciative of their time playing basketball here at UD.
“Playing basketball [at UD] has meant everything to me,” Stoia said. “I have had four great seasons and made some pretty awesome friends that will be friends for life.”
The younger players are also very appreciative of what the seniors have contributed.
“Holly Tonry is one of the best point guards I’ve played with and she created so many scoring opportunities for not only me but also everyone else,” DeCoud said.
Looking forward, it will be tough to replace the lost contributors, but DeCoud will be back next year to anchor the front court, and freshmen Caraway and Panda Green showed good potential and gained a lot of playing experience this season. Juniors Helen Onyenso and Shelby Waldron will likely have bigger roles, and sophomore Jackie Landry will be important with the loss of Stoia.
“I’m very optimistic about next season,” DeCoud said. “I think we showed progress all throughout the season in different things at different times. Next season will be all about putting it all together and playing a complete game for 40 minutes.”
“Expectations are high,” Grothe said.
Grothe now has experience in the conference tournament after the team missed it a year ago, Grothe’s first season as head coach. She said the goal is to win at least one game in the tournament.
“It’ll be about making next year our time and showing everyone what we can do,” DeCoud said.