The marching band, cheerleaders, faculty and students gathered at the rock for a pep rally to honor the University of Miami women’s basketball as it returned to campus after traveling 10,000 miles in less than a week.
With a 22-14 (4-10 ACC) record for its most successful season in five years, Miami won five games in the WNIT, but lost 73-61 in the championship game to California.
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 heartbreaking losses in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“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 usually flew under the radar.
Instead, the team made a statement in its final month of play to prove that it is a formidable opponent with NCAA Tournament aspirations next year.
Eighty percent of the team returns.
“This was a great learning experience,” second team All-ACC guard Riquna Williams said.
Miami could have made numerous excuses, but Meier wasn’t going to let anyone have sympathy for her team.
The Hurricanes traveled to three different time zones in a five-day span. They had eight underclassmen. No UM women’s team had ever won more than one game in a single postseason prior to this year.
With the toughest draw of any team in the 64-team field in the WNIT, Miami took down scrappy Florida Gulf Coast, the rival Florida Gators, an N.C. A&T team that should have made the NCAA Tournament, host Providence, Michigan and a Cal team that had three McDonald’s All-Americans.
Despite the tough circumstances, Meier and her team handled the adversity. Miami has a top-25 recruiting class coming in next year, but, more importantly, its two stars – rising juniors Shenise Johnson and Williams – will be back.
Johnson is an All-American candidate who is a triple-double threat every night and Williams was a three-pointer 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 beat 48-26 in the paint by the Golden Bears.
Still, there is hope and promise because 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 email@example.com.