Whitman Wire

Women’s Basketball Team Reaches the Elite 8

Kyle Howe

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Over spring break, the women’s basketball team was hard at work shattering expectations reaching the Elite 8 in the Division III NCAA basketball tournament. This memorable season saw the team go 23-6, even be ranked 11th on the D3 Hoops.com poll and 22nd in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

“Words can’t even begin to describe our experience in the NCAA tournament. We thought our season was over when we lost the conference playoff game, so it was an absolute dream come true hearing that we were the last team let into the tournament. I think for us, we felt extremely blessed getting this opportunity, and with every advancement. We were so grateful to be getting to share this experience with each other,” said junior Sarah Anderegg.

The road to the final game in the team’s incredible season was not easy whatsoever, but with incredible determination the team overcame many obstacles.

“As for the entire experience, we were thrilled to earn a berth. We had our best season overall with 20 wins in a very good conference but because we lost a close game to Whitworth in our playoffs we were unsure of whether it was good enough to get us in. But we got an at-large bid and drew SCIAC Champion California Lutheran as our first opponent at Lewis & Clark,” said Coach Michelle Ferenz.

The team beat California Lutheran and then conference rival Lewis & Clark College to advance to the Sweet 16. The team then stunned Emory University with a come-from-behind win to enter the Elite 8.

“I was very proud of how we played in all four of our NCAA tournament games and we were the last team left from the West region when we qualified for the Elite 8 by beating Emory University at Williams College,” said Ferenz.

The team’s hard work was definitely rewarded, as the team received the perks of being an Elite 8 team.

“Teams are definitely spoiled in the tournament––from buses with On Demand cable, to flying home in a private jet, to not having to eat all our meals at Safeway, we definitely got the all-star treatment. To us, these surprises were an added bonus. We were honestly just so happy to still be playing the game we love with the people we love,” said Anderegg.

With the tournament completed, the team has many great memories to build off of.

“The entire experience was honestly indescribable. I would definitely say we were the Cinderella team because the whole thing felt like a fairy tale. Even though we knew all season we could get that far, the general feeling was that other teams underestimated us. The private jet was really the icing on the cake and was a wonderful way to end my career,” said senior Mary Madden.

Now that they have experienced the benefits of success, the team looks towards next season with high hopes of surpassing this year’s achievements.

“Playing in the NCAA tournament is our goal every season but we know how hard it will be. The Northwest Conference is very good and it is hard to just get out of the conference. It takes a lot of hard work and focus to even give ourselves a chance and that is what this group did,” said Ferenz.

WIth a small graduating class, another run in the national tournament is not out of the question.

“Every season is different but with only two seniors, Emilie Gilbert and Mary Madden, graduating, we are hoping to add a good recruiting class to our roster and work hard in the off-season and build on our success. We have a great core of players back who know what it takes to compete in the NWC and nationally,” said Ferenz.

The team also hopes that their performance this year will attract even more fans.

“Hopefully after the outcome of this year’s season, the Whitman student body will recognize our efforts and support our commitment to basketball and Whitman as a whole by coming out to our games,” said Anderegg.

With the strong showing on the national stage, the team is beginning to feel a sense of respect on campus.

“The results I think have brought a lot of much-needed attention to the women’s basketball team. A lot of times we end up playing second fiddle to the men’s program. And while they do deserve the recognition, it felt nice to finally be in the spotlight and be the team everybody was talking about. I think we definitely gained a lot of respect on campus,” said Madden.

Now with great memories from the past season, the team is excited to see what next year has in store.

“After getting a taste of the tournament, making it to the Elite 8, we are definitely fighting to get back to where we are and go even further. We know that we have what it takes to compete with the best teams in the country and that just gives us even more of a drive to improve in the off-season. This year we made memories that will last forever, and we plan to make even more of those memories in the years to come,” said Anderegg.

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Women’s Basketball Team Reaches the Elite 8