It’s Early, But A Return to the NCAA Tournament Feels Imminent for Women’s Basketball 

The last time women’s basketball was in the NCAA tournament was the 2013-14 season. 

They had three seniors leading the way. 

A sophomore stepped up in a big way. 

And they played Albany in the second game of the season.  

This time, the Red Foxes came away with a victory by a score of 76-52 in the second game of the season against Albany. But it was different this time; unlike in the 2013-14 season, where they lost 69-59, the women dominated from start to finish. The similarities are frightening.  

The last team to make it to the tournament had three seniors Leanne Ockenden, Emma O’Connor, and Casey Dulin, who carried the team throughout the season. Head coach Brian Giorgis said, “I’m so old now I can’t remember, which team is which,” he said laughing. He then did his best to recall those three names – he got them exactly right – and said, “They were just as special as these guys. They’re all wonderful people who love to compete; extreme competitors and they just did things in their own way.” 

The current team will rely on Rebekah Hand, Alana Gilmer, and Grace Vander Weide; three seniors. The current triplet of seniors dropped a combined 65 points of the 89 total scored in their season opener against Boston University. There is simply no indication the current big three of Hand, Gilmer, and Vander Weide are going to slow down.  

The last players to get Marist to the tournament have similar builds to this year’s current players. Ockenden was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference defensive player of the year and made the All-MAAC third team in her senior year when she led the team in minutes played per game. That sounds a lot like Rebekah Hand, who is a five-foot, 10-inch guard that led the team in minutes per game and was All-MAAC first team her junior year.  

She touched on what it takes to get to the MAAC championship and hopefully the NCAA tournament. “It’s a long season, it’s one game at a time, we try to get better from the previous games or practices,” she said. “That being defense… I think that has been an emphasis this year and we’re trying to get better every day and turn it into a championship.”  

O’Connor led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks in 2014, gaining All-MAAC first team and All MAAC tournament team honors. Sounds a lot like Gilmer, who received All-MAAC first-team junior year, doing a little scoring, rebounding, and blocking in the process. Much like O’Connor, Gilmer is a forward who does a lot of her scoring in the paint. In this game against Albany, she scored 12 points, all two-point shots. 

The 2014 roster also had a floor general, Dulin, leading the team in assists with 121 on the season. The current roster has Vander Weide, where she totaled 156 assists her Junior year, rarely making a mistake. In the game against Albany, she recorded six assists in only 23 minutes of play, directing the offense with ease.  

The team in 2014 even had an x-factor in Sydney Coffey, a sophomore who finished fourth on the team in points. This sounds exactly like Sarah Barcello. Through the majority of the game, she led the team in scoring. Though she finished with just 12, she was an evident spark.  

That 2014 team evidently had the pieces to make it to March. This year, the pieces, clearly, are there again. You can’t make guarantees in most games; the one game with a guaranteed progression is the waiting game. That’s what fans – and these players – have to play.

Edited by Will Bjarnar

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