Despite first-round loss, Hurricanes can still be proud

Most Hurricane fans can agree that the women’s basketball team could have done some things differently.

A missed opportunity in the remaining moments of the NCAA Tournament game against Maryland has been the talk of the campus in the last week. But true fans of the team got over the last-second loss rather quickly. They know the battle the ‘Canes have fought all season long, and they’d be hard pressed to ask for a better outcome.

Yes, the team has had its ups and downs. But at the end of the day, making it as far as it did outweighs the disappointments.

Coming into the tournament as the No. 5 seed, the ‘Canes prepared for their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance (and their second consecutive trip). Last year they came in at No. 11 and lost to No. 6 New Mexico in overtime in the first round. But the journey to the tournament this year was a sweet one as the team suffered only six losses in its 28 regular season games.

The women appeared unstoppable as they raced to a 12-0 start stretching from November to early January. Their first loss (Villanova on Jan. 7) was but a blip on the radar screen as they cruised through their next four games. Perhaps the biggest trouble of the season came in a three-game stretch where they struggled against Big East rivals Notre Dame, Rutgers, and Connecticut. But again they bounced back from the darkest point of their season and entered the tournament with very few battle wounds. Even Maryland can’t say the same.

The ‘Canes started turning heads across the country when they climbed to No. 17 in the nation following their twelfth consecutive victory. It was the combination of strength and leadership on this team that enabled them to win against all odds. When people talked about Miami basketball, they were talking about the women. The coaching staff, led by Head Coach Ferne Labati, was instrumental in leading this team, as were seniors Chanivia Broussard and Shaquana Wilkins, along with Tamara James and key players Yalonda McCormick and Melissa Knight. Every time they spoke, win or lose, it was about forgetting the past and moving onto the next game.

The women possessed a brand of cohesiveness that is hard to come by for most teams. And every season, national championship or not, is a learning experience.

Anything less than a No. 1 finish is a disappointment on some level, as we all learned in the past two seasons of Hurricane football. But we should only be more optimistic about the women’s basketball team’s chances to advance even further in its first season as Atlantic Coast Conference members.

Despite the premature exit, it still has been a highly successful season. And after all, doesn’t it make the prospects for next season a little more exciting when the ultimate prize hasn’t yet been won?

Melissa Teich can be contacted at