The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s women’s basketball team hit the road to Sioux Falls, South Dakota last week in hopes of keeping their season alive by winning the Summit League Tournament. The dream was spoiled in the semifinals, but the Mavericks should hold their heads high.
The team’s 16-14 overall record does not reflect their intangible nature that is the fight they have in their hearts. Senior forward Mikaela Shaw told the media after the first game the team was ready for whoever dared to step in the Mavericks’ way.
“No matter who we faced in this first game, we were going to come in fighting,” Shaw said.
The fifth seeded Mavericks won that fight in their first game. Omaha took on a fourth seed South Dakota team that swept them in the regular season, and took down the Coyotes 64-58. UNO head coach Brittany Lange was ecstatic after their opening win.
“Very excited that we could show up again in our second trip to this tournament and, as the underdogs, come out on top against a very good South Dakota team.”
The Mavs were in a battle the whole game, but managed to keep their cool and weathered South Dakota’s late comeback attempt. Having experienced players on the floor helped UNO and Lange noted that after the game.
“I am so pumped for our seniors,” Lange said. “I think we just exemplified so much heart today.”
Of the three seniors, Shaw led the team immensely. The Nebraska native logged in 36 minutes and scored a team-high 25 points in the process. Junior guard Remy Davenport also helped out on the offensive side by dropping 15 points. Shaw credits the team’s blue-collar work ethic for their win.
“This team is the hardest working team I’ve ever been on,” Shaw said.
Unfortunately for Omaha, their momentum was deflated in the semifinals and their season came to an abrupt end. The Mavs faced a Western Illinois team that had dominated them in the regular season and swept them in both games. It was a closely fought battle that came down to the wire, but eventually fell in favor of the Leathernecks. Lange tipped her cap to the team that eventually went on to win the whole tournament.
“I thought [Western Illinois] played really confidently down the stretch and they do what they do, which is hit big shot after big shot in the fourth,” Lange said.
Neither team could snag much momentum to build on a big lead, and the game eventually came down to the final minutes. Lange said the toll of playing a game the previous day might have been the difference maker.
“I think our kids gave everything they had but kind of ran out of gas in the tank,” Lange said.
Shaw was once again the leader for the team and connected on half of her shots to contribute a game-high 29 points and eight rebounds. The loss was a painful one, but the senior reflected on how her teammates’ efforts were impressive.
“I’m so proud of how the whole entire team played this weekend,” Shaw said.
The loss was disappointing, heartbreaking and left a bad taste in the mouths of the UNO fans. Obviously a championship appearance would have been ideal, but Omaha may have solidified the legitimacy of the women’s basketball program.
“To get this far and to be one possession away from the championship game is obviously a huge step in the right direction for us,” Lange said.