While most teams would be happy with advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in their third-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, that wasn’t satisfying for the Georgetown women’s basketball team. The Hoyas fell in a heartbreaking loss to the perennially dominant Connecticut Huskies last March, a game that head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy called a “giveaway.”
“I don’t think about it,” junior guard Sugar Rodgers said. “I won’t even go back and watch the tape.”
Thankfully, the No. 10 Hoyas don’t have to wait too long for some good competition. After the season opener against Longwood, the women will head to College Park to take on No. 11 Maryland. Last year the Hoyas posted two wins against the Terrapins, winning bragging rights in the D.C. area. The early road test figures to be a gauge of the team’s toughness.
“It’s going to be an all out brawl,” senior forward Tia Magee said. “I think the crowd is going to be crazy. It’s just going to be crazy.”
Leadership will be crucial if the Hoyas are to win in hostile environments. Living up to their preseason top ten ranking means overcoming the loss of last year’s lone senior, Monica McNutt, who Williams-Flournoy saw as crucial to the team’s success.
“We need someone to step up and be the leader that [McNutt] was for this team,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We’re waiting to see who’s going to step up to that role.”
Magee is taking that challenge personally. Already a vocal leader for the team, she improved drastically throughout the course of last season after recovering from an injury.
“A lot of us have to step up, especially me,” Magee said. “I’m a captain this year … everybody’s looking at me.”
But Magee’s senior leadership alone won’t be enough for the Hoyas. Magee may be the loudest voice in the locker room, but Williams-Flournoy said senior point guard Rubylee Wright has “got to run this team” and be the leader on the floor.
From the rest of the senior class, Williams-Flournoy is expecting strong presence as well. Forward Adria Crawford is a physical force in the paint, while guard Alexa Roche is a scoring spark whose perimeter play will help fill the void McNutt left behind.
This year’s senior class first brought the Hoyas the scrappy and quick play that has thrust the program forward in recent years. Known for their trapping press and relentless defense, Williams-Flournoy’s recent teams have relied on quickness to compensate for weaknesses like rebounding. This up-tempo style of play helped the Hoyas have the best turnover margin in the Big East last season.
The incoming freshmen are still adjusting to this style, but luckily they have plenty of experienced players who can lead by example. Particularly important in this regard is Rodgers, who finished second in the Big East in scoring last year with 18.7 points per game. She said she thinks this is Georgetown’s year to “win it all.” Williams-Flournoy isn’t yet convinced, and thinks Rodgers still needs to step up her game, despite her All-Big East performance last season.
“I think there’s a lot out there for Sugar Rodgers to do,” Williams-Flournoy said. “There are a lot of things that she has not done that she needs to get serious about and buckle down. She has not made anything. The only thing she’s won is Big East Freshman of the Year and Big East First Team … she needs to start making national recognition.”
Tough non-conference matchups such as Maryland and Miami will force Rodgers and the Hoyas to play to their potential early in the season. The team must be careful, however, not to wear down before a trying Big East schedule. The conference is a juggernaut again this year, with six teams in the preseason top 25. Nevertheless, the Hoyas remain confident in their ability to rise above a stacked Big East field.
“Of course we have high expectations, as does the nation,” Magee said. “We’re top ten in the nation, highest that we’ve been ever.”
It’s where you finish that counts though, and with an early target on their back, the Hoyas can expect everyone’s best game.
It’s a welcome challenge for the Hoyas, as they prepare to take on Longview on Friday. “This is where we worked to get to,” Williams-Flournoy said. “This is what we deserve. This is what we’ve always wanted.”