March 14, 2011
By Jon Cooper
The Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball Team is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in school history and for a school-record fifth straight season. They’ve even earned the highest seeding, a fifth seed, in the program’s history. That’s quite a hot streak.
Following the announcement on the NCAA Tournament Selection show, Head Coach MaChelle Joseph was plenty hot.
“Obviously we’re happy to be in the Tournament but we’re disappointed in the seed,” she said. “We feel like it’s kind of a slap in the face.”
Joseph’s Yellow Jackets, who enter the tournament ranked 24th in the nation, with a 23-10 record, are headed to the Dayton Region and will open against two-time defending Mid-American Conference Champion Bowling Green (28-4, 13-3), the 12 seed, on Saturday. Tip-off is at 11:00 a.m. at St. John Arena.
But what has Joseph steamed is that her team will once again play on an opposing team’s home floor, something that happened in 2008, when they played Iowa State in Des Moines, 2009, when they battled Iowa in Iowa City, and would have happened last season in Norman, Oklahoma, against the Sooners had they not stumbled against Arkansas-Little Rock in its first game.
Joseph expected Techs tougher non-conference schedule to alleviate that headache. It did not.
“We had an 18 RPI, were 16th in strength of schedule,” she said. “We swept North Carolina, we beat Maryland, the 13th ranked team. We’ve been in the top 25. We beat Georgia by 16. For them to get a six seed on a neutral floor and us to get a five on somebody’s home floor, I think is wrong. It’s going to motivate my team to go out against Bowling Green and give the best game we possibly can and look forward with a match-up, hopefully against Ohio State on its home floor.
“I feel as though at times this year we have been snubbed and overlooked at critical situations,” she added (also referring to freshman Ty Marshall not winning ACC Rookie of the Year). “I feel like this is our chance to go out and show everybody.”
Most of Coach Jo’s charges were eager to take on the challenge of Tournament play, regardless of where and when.
“It means the world to me,” said senior Alex Montgomery. “Now I’ve got to go out there and give it my all.”
Fellow senior Deja Foster seconded that motion.
“When you get to the NCAA Tournament, it’s go hard or go home,” she said. “So you have to have the mentality that it’s the last 40 minutes of basketball that you’re going to play. It’s the big time.”
The big time won’t be too big for Marshall.
“I’ve had great competition the whole year it’s improved me for this point.” she said. “I’m ready to play some of the best competition in the country.”
While Tech is headed to The Big Dance, this year, the Yellow Jackets’ choice of shoe may be more along the lines of workboots than dance shoes.
“That’s what we’re about. Blue collar, hard work, going out there and fighting all 40 minutes of every game,” said Foster.
Under Joseph, Tech has won only two games in NCAA Tournament history, stunning DePaul, 55-54, in 2007 on a late runner by Jacqua Williams, in Minneapolis (before falling to eventual runner-up Purdue), then, two years later, upending Iowa in Iowa City, 76-62, before falling to Courtney Paris and Oklahoma, 69-50, The Sooners would get to the Final Four.
In last year’s tournament, the Jackets fell in the first round, 63-53, to Arkansas Little Rock, despite a game-high 26 points from Brigitte Ardossi. Of course, last year’s team didn’t have a fully healthy Alex Montgomery, who was 2-for-12 vs. UALR, or Ty Marshall, who was still in high school.
They’re hoping that the firepower of Montgomery and Marshall as well as the emergence of point guard Metra Walthour and the toughness of battle-tested Foster and center Sasha Goodlett, who came up huge (18 points, nine rebounds) in the ACC Tournament victory over Maryland and who held Paris to nine points in the NCAA Tournament loss two years ago, can earn the school’s first Sweet 16 bid.
“I say we’re a lot better team than we were last year,” said Foster. “[Walthour], she hit some shots for us last year but she’s really stepped up. You saw what Sasha Goodlett can do when she’s playing big. You saw what Chelsea Regins can do when she’s playing tough. We had Brigitte Ardossi last year and she was an All-American. But she was just one player. I feel like we have an entire team now. On any given night we all can have a great game or if somebody’s struggling we’ll have her back.”
And, unlike last year, they’re not looking forward to anything but Bowling Green.
“In the NCAAs everyone steps up to another level,” said junior center Sasha Goodlett. “Every game is a learning experience. In the last NCAA Tournament game I learned don’t overlook your opponent. The one before that I learned nobody can beat you if you play your heart out. Every NCAA Tournament I come with an open mind trying to learn something new. I’m very excited to learn something new this year.”
“We’ve had a lot of intensity in practice,” said Marshall. “Everybody’s ready to go. I’m ready to go. Who doesn’t live for the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament?”
Saturday’s game will be the first ever meeting between Georgia Tech and Bowling Green. The Yellow Jacket women are 3-0 all-time against the Mid-American Conference.