A year after earning the school’s first-ever berth into the NCAA women’s tournament, the Redhawks are 0-15. Here is what happened.
This certainly would have been hard to envision 10 months ago.
Back then, the Seattle U women’s basketball team had captured the attention of the town, winning the Western Athletic Conference title and earning the school’s first berth into the NCAA women’s tournament.
Even with star Alexis Montgomery graduating, things looked good for the future.
And then ….
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A budding star transferred and two key players got injured, and the young Redhawks are 0-15, one of just two Division I winless teams.
Seattle U has been competitive in most games and has had some good chances to win, including last Saturday’s 74-73 triple overtime loss against Grand Canyon, but the zero in the win column remains.
“I am not going to allow our record to define these young women because I know the work that they are putting in to getting us better and getting this turned around,” said Seattle U coach Suzy Barcomb. “They were devastated (after the loss to Grand Canyon) and I told them I wanted them to focus on all the amazing things they did out on that floor. … I just wanted them to focus on everything positive.”
Losing like this is new territory for Barcomb, who is in her third season at Seattle U but has been a head college coach for 20 years. She is one of two active coaches to have taken teams to the NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III NCAA tournaments.
“As the head coach, it’s my responsibility to show up every day and try new things,” Barcomb said. “It’s very hard for me to see my kids sad. I don’t like it. I am a fixer and I want to fix it. This is just a really slow process for us right now.”
The trouble started for Seattle U not too long after last year’s NCAA tournament when center Kallin Spiller, the WAC freshman of the year, transferred to Columbia.
“Transfers happen,” Barcomb said. “And when a student-athlete doesn’t feel at home at whatever institution they choose, I am just not going to begrudge them the opportunity. … I think it’s really important to let these young people make these decisions.”
The team might have been able to weather the loss of Spiller, but then starting point guard McKenzi Williams was lost to a knee injury and starting forward Courtney Murphy suffered a broken ankle. And Barcomb said another player she expected to have didn’t clear NCAA waivers.
“So it’s the imperfect storm for us, unfortunately, that has caused us to have the record that we have right now,” Barcomb said. “The injuries made us try to develop role players into starters in the midst of the season. That is incredibly difficult to do. Normally, you develop your role players in the offseason. Unfortunately, we’ve had to roll people out there who are kind of learning on the job.”
But things are looking up. Murphy returned to the lineup two games ago and gave the team an immediate boost, scoring 28 points in those games. After coming oh so close against Grand Canyon, the Redhawks’ next chance to get a win is Saturday at home against Utah Valley.
That won’t be easy as Utah Valley is tied for the conference lead at 2-0.
A much easier game awaits Jan. 24 when the Redhawks host Chicago State (0-14), the only other winless team in the country. The Cougars have been much less competitive than the Redhawks.
Not that Barcomb wants to wait that long for a win, and she is seeing great progress even if it hasn’t been substantiated with a victory.
“If you watched us play, and if you didn’t know our overall record, you would be shocked to see what the record is,” Barcomb said. “If someone watched us in the first game and then watched us in triple overtime against Grand Canyon, they wouldn’t recognize the team that played against Grand Canyon. Individuals are making such great strides.”
There are other reasons for Seattle fans to be optimistic. There are three players redshirting this season whom Barcomb expects will make a big impact next season.
But the focus now is turning things around this season.
“Our team is playing as hard as they can,” Barcomb said. “I am not questioning the effort at all.”