The University of Miami women’s basketball team’s magical end of the season run culminated on Tuesday afternoon as the school hosted a pep rally to honor the ten players and coaching staff for its most successful season (22-14) in five years.
The marching band, cheerleaders, faculty and students gathered at the rock to honor the Hurricanes as they returned to campus after traveling 10,000 miles in less than a week.
Miami won five games in the WNIT but ultimately lost in the championship game to California 73-61 last Saturday.
Regardless of the result, this was still an extremely successful year for the Hurricanes as they grew and matured over the past month of the season after dealing with heart-breaking losses in the ACC.
“I’m extremely proud of my players and coaching staff,” fifth-year head coach Katie Meier said. “We worked really hard all season but just got outplayed by Cal. I have never seen a team make more shots in the final 10 seconds of the shot clock in all my years of coaching.”
It could have been very easy for Meier and the Hurricanes to fold and give up. At a school known for its football and baseball prowess, this UM hoops squad was not going fly under the radar. They made a statement this final month that they are a formidable opponent and have NCAA Tournament aspirations next year as 80 percent of the team returns.
“This was a great learning experience,” second team All-ACC sophomore guard Riquna Williams said. “It was difficult to play in tough crowds.”
Miami could have made numerous excuses but Meier wasn’t going to let anyone have sympathy for her team.
They traveled to three different time zones in a five day span. They were a young team with eight underclassmen. They were an inexperienced team as no UM women’s team had ever won more than one game in a single postseason prior to this year. They had to play road games because the BankUnited Center was occupied.
They had the toughest draw of any team in the 64-team field in the WNIT playing a scrappy Florida Gulf Coast squad, archrival Florida Gators, a N.C. A&T team that should have made the NCAA Tournament, a Big East Providence squad on the road, Michigan which was the last four out in the women’s bracketology and a Cal team that had three McDonald’s All Americans.
Despite the tough circumstances, Meier handled the adversity with grace and class.Miami has a top 25 recruiting class coming in next year but, more importantly, their two stars in sophomores Shenise Johnson and Williams will return for their junior campaigns.
Johnson is an All-American candidate who is a triple-double threat every night. Williams was one three away from tying the ACC record for most three point field goals made in a single season.
All the Hurricanes are lacking is a dominant post-player down low. They got annihilated in the paint getting outscored 48 to 26 against California.
Still there is hope and promise because most importantly, the final few weeks of the season taught this team how to win. There is a fine line between winning and losing, and the Hurricanes, under the guidance and tutelage of Meier and her resilient staff, learned how to finish and learned how to overcome adversity.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recapping the WNIT Journey
Round One: Miami beats Florida Gulf Coast 70-57
Round Two: Miami beats Florida 77-64
Sweet 16: Miami beats N.C. A&T 84-77
Elite Eight: Miami beats Providence 73-65
Final Four: Miami beats Michigan 76-59
Championship: Miami loses to Cal 73-61