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Seniors leave program pointing in right direction

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Senior guard Tatiyiana McMorris was named All-Big East Second Team, her first Big East honor of her Marquette career. Photo Courtesy of Marquette Images.

Even in season-ending defeat, the Marquette women’s basketball team stunned critics as it had done all year.

Marquette was considered a heavy underdog in its second round NCAA Tournament game against Tennessee on March 21 — a home game for the vaunted Volunteers — but lost by only nine, 79-70, in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.

Marquette’s season was marked all year by the final chance for its senior class to make it to an NCAA Tournament, with those players having only tasted the National Invitation Tournament in their time here. The seniors were the last remaining members of the team that won that tournament in 2008.

“Winning the WNIT was great, but it’s not something you want to go back to. It’s something you want to build on,” senior forward Paige Fiedorowicz said. “It took us a while, but we made the necessary strides to get there.”

Picked to finish 10th in the Big East this year by the conference’s coaches, Marquette (24-9, 10-6 Big East) surprised everyone by finishing in fifth.

“It was really just hard work that allowed us to overcome that (projected ranking),” senior guard Angel Robinson said. “We have this saying that it’s not where you start but where you finish, and we were able to finish strong.”

A key point in the season was a double-overtime win against Georgetown on Jan. 8, in Washington D.C. After taking a crushing loss to Notre Dame at home by 18 points three days earlier, the Golden Eagles  upset the then-No. 14/15 Hoyas 75-73.  All five seniors that played in that game scored in double figures.

“I think the biggest thing about that game was that they were ranked at the time,” Robinson said. “It was a road game and a big test for our underclassmen to prove that they can win on the road in the Big East. That win gave us the confidence to overcome (the Notre Dame) defeat and get everyone into a mindset of, ‘We have something special here.’”

From that point on, Marquette went 11-6, with victories over then-No. 6/7 West Virginia, then-No. 7/11 DePaul and ninth-seeded Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Marquette’s first win in that tournament since 2007.

The Marquette seniors leave behind a group of underclassmen that includes only three players who played in 30 or more games this season: sophomore forward Sarina Simmons, freshman forward Katherine Plouffe and freshman guard Gabi Minix.

Senior guard Tatiyiana McMorris said “the sky is the limit” for that group of players.

Simmons averaged 7.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while starting 31 of 33 games.

“I think (Simmons) is a great player, and she will be a leader on this team next year,” McMorris said.

Plouffe started 30 of 33 games and averaged 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

“(Plouffe) is fantastic,” McMorris said. “It’s not easy to start as a freshman, but she did it extremely well.”

Minix played in 30 of 33 games this season and served as Robinson’s primary backup at the point guard position.

“I think Gabi is a great player,” McMorris said. “She did everything that she was supposed to do for us on the year, and she will probably end up leaving as one of the greatest point guards to play at Marquette.”

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