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Looking to Make it Sweet

March 15, 2012

by Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily –

While waiting Thursday afternoon for some dreadfully slow members of the media (names of Newberry and Suguira), Sasha Goodlett was playful in the foyer of the Zelnak practice facility.

She kept teasing the team’s PR person . . . “One more minute, Marcus. That’s it.”

Goodlett waited, though, and so did Meme Walthour and Ty Marshall.

Georgia Tech women’s basketball has been waiting a while, and with the opportunity now at hand there’s no reason to bail before a job is done.

The Yellow Jackets have never advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and they have now a better chance than ever — at least on paper — to check that off the program’s to-do list.

Don’t think for a moment that’s not what on everybody’s mind.

Shoot, coach MaChelle Joseph didn’t deny it. She even admitted to scouting not only Sunday’s opponent (Sacred Heart), but potential second-round matchups Georgetown/Fresno State.

“All we’ve talked about the last five years is advancing in the tournament and getting into the Sweet 16,” she said. “A Sweet 16 for this program would be another step toward making us a perennial power.
“Unfortunately for us, we’ve never made it out of the second round so for us to . . . continue to grow this program, a Sweet 16 would really push us forward and put us over the edge.”

Joseph’s program has not necessarily been on a rocket-like path in recent years. When you’ve ramped it up as substantially as the Jackets have in the past six years — making the NCAA Tournament every year and setting records for school wins and achievements year after year — there’s no rocket left.

Yet when you’re operating on as high a level as the Jackets have in that time, especially relative to the program’s previous history, the idea of improving every season is a big deal.

No matter. For what seems like the umpteenth year in a row, the Jackets have continued notching marks.

This senior class, which includes Goodlett, Walthour, Mo Bennett, Chelsea Regins and LaQuananisha Adams, has set school records for most ACC wins in a career (37), overall victories (93), ACC wins in a season (12) and the Jackets’ tie for third place in the regular-season standings (with Maryland) was a program best.

If Tech beats Sacred Heart, the Jackets (24-8) will set a single-season mark for wins.
It all adds up.

Being a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament is another first. Still, it’s not what’s on everybody’s mind. That’s past-tense.

“We’re more focused on leaving this program better than we found it and going further than we’ve gone in the NCAA Tournament,” Goodlett said.

The Jackets will leave today for Chapel Hill, N.C., where they’ve beaten UNC two years in a row, for Sunday’s opener against Sacred Heart. Should Tech win, the opponent will not be North Carolina.
That’ll be a rarity on a couple levels.

Most years, like last, the Jackets travel to a site where the home school awaits. In 2012, that meant that after beating Bowling Green in the first round Tech had to play Ohio State on its home floor.

UNC didn’t make the tournament this year, AND Tech has played there.

What they’re really excited about is not only the chance to play on a neutral court, but a court “that we’re familiar with,” Joseph said. “We’ve had tremendous success the last two years there; I think that gets us excited.”

A first-ever trip to the Sweet 16, even if it will likely mean a matchup against overall No. 1 seed Baylor, is worth getting excited about.

“We want to go out and show that we can handle it and do something that his program has never done before,” Walthour said. “We have to go out and earn it. That’s a big part of the goals that we set.”

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