December 10, 2018

Women’s hoops season comes to close at NCAA Tournament

After putting together their most successful season since 2004-05, Webster University’s women’s basketball team saw their season end on Friday, March 2. The Gorloks advanced to the NCAA Division III March Madness Tournament, but  fell short in a 86-45 defeat against Wartburg College.

Even after claiming their first St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Championship since 2011, the Gorloks entered the tournament as underdogs against the two-seeded Wartburg Knights. The team seeked their first NCAA Division III victory since 2002, but ultimately fell short.

The game also represented the final game for eight of Webster University’s women’s basketball players. Next season, the team will have to overcome the loss of its top three scorers in Aley Lucas, Taylor Lucas and Kelsey Miller. The moment proved to be bittersweet, and the locker room reflected as such.

“It was a sad atmosphere, knowing that this was the last time playing with the seniors,” sophomore Kylie Shoot said. “But we were proud of our overall season.”

In her final game, SLIAC Tournament MVP Taylor Lucas led the team with 12 points and four rebounds in 34 minutes of action. Behind her, sophomore Jaysea Morgan contributed eight points, and Kelsey Miller and Megan Brandt added five points apiece.

The thought of playing additional basketball past the collegiate level has not materialized for some of the Gorlok seniors.

Prior to the NCAA Division III Tournament, senior Aley Lucas stated that she would potentially take an offer if the opportunity presented itself. Lucas was named to the All-SLIAC First Team last month. Fellow senior Kelsey Miller deflected such a possibility.

“I’d say this is my last year,” Miller said. “I’m happy with what we accomplished this season. It’s the best way I could’ve wanted to go out.”

The eight-member senior class leaves behind success to look back on. Sports Information Director Ben Greenberg brought out that the Gorlok seniors put together 61 victories over a four-year span, which included a 39-14 overall record, and 25-9 record in the SLIAC.

In addition, seniors Taylor Lucas and Kelsey Miller finished 11th and 14th respectively on the Gorloks all-time scoring chart. Lucas came nine points shy of surpassing Courtney Pursley, who played for the Gorloks from 2010 – 2014.

For just the third time in university history, the Gorloks posted a 20-win season.

For just the third time in university history, the Gorloks posted a 20-win season.

The team could find itself in a transitional phase next season. During their NCAA Division III Tournament game against Wartburg College, the team produced its worst scoring output (45 points) in over two years. Prior to this game, their lowest scoring total of the season came on Dec. 31, in a contest against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College.

With the loss, the Gorloks fell to 2-4 in the Division III NCAA Tournament. Each of the team’s two victories came in 2002, when the team advanced to the third round.

Looking into a future in which the Gorloks will be without four of their top six scorers next season, the responsibilities of the team will be placed onto players such as sophomore Jaysea Morgan, sophomore Jade Sawyer, and freshman Kylie Shoot. Sawyer talked about some of the things she hopes to see herself improve upon for the 2018-19 season.

“I personally have a lot of things I want to work on for myself, both on and off the court,” Sawyer said. “I need to improve both offensively and defensively but most importantly, I need to improve as a leader, which is going to be my biggest focus individually.”

Shoot said that the team needs to enter next season with confidence, and the willingness to step, given the amount of talent leaving the team this year.

In terms of the team’s future and recruiting, the Gorloks will be in position to seek players that fit their play style. Statistically, the team thrives on its ability to turn defense into offense.

At the season’s end, the Gorloks finished with a plus 11.0 turnover margin. Their defense baited opponents into 27.6 turnovers per game. In fact, Webster’s turnover margin and steals per game led the conference, and ranked fifth among the NCAA.

Aley and Taylor Lucas, Kelsey Miller and Ebony Bailey led the team in steals, and each are graduating this year. Seeking capable defenders to replace the seniors figures to be a priority when the time comes.

For now, the team can look back fondly on what they accomplished in 2017-18. Head Coach Jordan Olufson reached the 150-win plateau, Webster University earned their first 20-win season in 13 years, and numerous players earned All-SLIAC distinctions.

Along the way, the team came away with a pair of closely contested SLIAC Tournament victories. To get to this point, the Gorloks defeated Eureka College 56-52 in the semifinals, and then came away with a 63-61 victory over Westminster College in the championship game. For players like Kelsey Miller, that is the moment that mattered most.

“The standout moment for me is winning the conference tournament,” Miller said. “I know that it’s fairly recent still, but I know that will be a day and a game that I cherish for the rest of my life.”

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