Energy, inconsistency and early injuries. This is the story surrounding the women’s basketball season, which ended after a second-round exit in the ACC Tournament against Virginia Tech.
The team entered the season with high energy and high hopes, looking to improve on its lackluster performance from the preceding season. However, its 2020-21 campaign was interrupted just one day before the start of the start of the season. Senior guard and leader of the team Mykea Gray would miss the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained during practice.
With Gray out, the team looked to fall on fellow senior guards Endia Banks, Taylor Mason and Kelsey Marshall to lead the team to a winning record. The Canes finished the regular season 11-10 (8-9 ACC) and 10th in the ACC. While the season didn’t turn out exactly as planned, there were still some highlights throughout the year. Here are the 2020-21 season’s best:
Best Game: at No. 1 Louisville
If you’re only looking at the box score, you might notice the Canes lost this game. However, traveling to the number one team in the nation and only losing by three points is the most impressive thing the team did all season. The Canes proved they could be competitive at the highest level and challenged one of the best teams in the nation. This game was full of high moments from the Canes. The team shot a season-best 47.5 percent from the field and junior Naomi Mbandu recorded her first career double-double. The team also outscored Louisville by five points in the second half of the game.
Best Moment: Karla Erjavec waiver
Erjavec transferred to Miami from Wyoming after two seasons with the Cowgirls. She was granted immediate eligibility in mid-Dec. as a part of the NCAA’s blanket waiver that provided relief for transfer students. On the day of the announcement, the team released a video with Erjavec and head coach Katie Meier jumping up and down and hugging in celebration. Erjavec went on to play 16 games, starting five of them.
Best Scorer: Kelsey Marshall
Marshall once again established herself as a leader on the team. She was the one Canes player to finish inside the top-25 in the ACC. The guard had 15 double-digit games including a season-high 22 points against Jacksonville and a 21-point game against Pittsburgh. She finished the season with 278 total points and averaged 13.2 PPG.
Best Returning Player: Destiny Harden
Right now the status of the seniors is unknown. The NCAA announced prior to the start of the season that all winter sport athletes in Division I would receive an extra year of eligibility.
However, the return of Harden is certain. The junior forward emerged as a leader on the team, especially during the last half of the season and was one of only two Canes players to average double-digit points per game (10.7 PPG). She also had a career-high 27 point game against Virginia Tech in early March and finished the season with four double-doubles.
There’s more to come with the Canes and the potential to be competitive in the ACC is higher than ever. The team’s roster is becoming more experienced and with the potential of having four of the current senior players returning for another season the expectations are high.