HAND: Early exit doesn’t negate strong WBB season

Womens+basketball+celebrates+following+their+BIG+EAST+championship+in+March.

Photo by Austin Anderson

Women’s basketball celebrates following their BIG EAST championship in March.

After suffering a heart-wrenching 68-65 loss to Quinnipiac in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Marquette sophomore guard Natishia Hiedeman was staring off into space when she was asked a question during the postgame press conference. It seemed she was still in disbelief that the Golden Eagles had just lost. Then, her teary eyes turned to the mic to answer the question.

“Making it here is a great accomplishment. We came a long way from last year to this year,” she said. “I’m just already ready for next year. Looking forward to it.”

Her quote perfectly sums up the Golden Eagles current position. Of course, the loss to Quinnipiac was tough. Marquette was the five seed, the highest in program history, and after upsetting DePaul for the third time this season they seemed to be playing their best basketball, but in the end their inexperience showed. Quinnipiac jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game, while Marquette saved their best basketball for the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough time to eclipse a 19-point Quinnipiac lead.

Fans tend to just remember the last game of the season, but let’s not forget how far Marquette came from last year, when the team went 14-16. The Golden Eagles had no business playing in the BIG EAST Championship this season, let alone winning it. That accomplishment was penciled in for DePaul at the start of the year. The core sophomore class wasn’t supposed to have enough experience and head coach Carolyn Kieger was supposed to need more time to develop her program. That all now seems to be a distant memory.

Marquette is on a fast track to being one of the nation’s top programs, not just one of the BIG EAST’s best. Marquette only loses one senior from this year’s squad in McKayla Yentz. The young core now has experience beating all six of its Top 25 opponents, winning the BIG EAST Tournament and playing in the NCAA tournament. With most of the team’s top players having two years of eligibility left, look out for what can be accomplished.