By David Parker
The ONU women’s basketball team headed to Frankfort, Ky., for the NAIA National Tournament for the second consecutive year. They opened against No. 20 Shorter (Ga.) Wednesday night.
The team said last week they are prepared for the road ahead.
“Last year, our goal was to get there and win a game, which we had never done before,” said head coach Doug Porter. “This year, we want to do better than that.”
The players are also optimistic for the tournament.
“Our goal … is winning a national title. We plan on playing on Tuesday, [March 20, in the national championship],” sophomore guard Liz Bart said.
The team knows there are multiple steps necessary to get to that point. They must win five games in seven days to attain their goal.
“We’re [going] to just take it one game at a time,” assistant coach Lauren Stamatis said.
To get to this point, the team has had to get through various challenges throughout the season.
“We faced a lot of adversity that we overcame and pulled together as a team,” Bart said. “We had a lot of people get hurt, and sometimes people got sick. And [other] people were able to step up and fill those important roles.”
Bart was one of those players to step up, leading the CCAC with a .404 3-point percentage and earning a CCAC Player of the Week. Other key players included redshirt junior Danielle Tolbert and senior Denita Phelps, who were named to the CCAC First Team before spring break. Senior Holly Schacht earned a place on the CCAC Second Team as well.
Players also gave credit to their coach for their individual and team success this season. Porter was named the CCAC Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year and surpassed the 300 career-wins mark in January.
“Porter has just been very guiding,” Bart noted. “He’s very humble with all of our winning, and he always seems to know what to do in situations.”
“He’s just a great motivator,” Stamatis added. “He knows the game of basketball, and he knows our style better than anyone else.”
Whatever may happen at the tournament, Porter is proud of what the team has been able to accomplish.
“I think one thing that stands out about the team is they’re the most successful team in ONU history,” Porter said, noting the team’s 17 consecutive wins and 27 consecutive home wins [before losing to Robert Morris in the CCAC tournament semifinals on March 1], and their first top 10 national ranking in school history.
The team feels the same way.
“We’re really proud of where we’re headed and the success we’ve had so far,” Bart said