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Women hoopsters earn historic No. 6 seed

March 16, 2010

by Jon Cooper, Associate Editor

ATLANTA — With all the history that the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team has already made during the 2009-10 season, there was no reason to stop on Selection Monday.

True to form it didn’t.

The Yellow Jackets, who recorded their first ever 23-win season, were given their highest NCAA Tournament seed ever, a sixth seed in the Kansas City Region. It also marked a historic fourth consecutive season that coach MaChelle Joseph is taking her team to the Big Dance. Prior to her arrival on The Flats, Tech had made it just twice.

“We just continue to make history,” said Joseph. “The thing that’s really special about four years in a row is that our seniors can walk away from here and say ‘Every year I was at Georgia Tech I was in the NCAA Tournament.’ No other class has been able to do that.

“When you have year after year of that, where your players have always been in the Tournament, they don’t know anything else,” she continued. “They refuse to lose. That’s how you build a national power.”

That historical impact on the program of a fourth consecutive Tournament appearance is not lost on senior Brigitte Ardossi.

“I don’t know what the feeling [of not making the NCAAs] is like and I’m glad I never had to experience it,” said Ardossi. “I’m just looking forward to making it as far as we can. Sweet 16 is the goal and beyond.”

Freshman Sharena Taylor is on the other end of the spectrum, enjoying the ride of her first collegiate postseason, but she is already starting to get the idea of “refuse to lose.”

“You’ve got to play every game like it’s your last because it is if you lose,” said Taylor. “First time ever us being a six seed. For the years to come I hope it’s something we can continue to improve on. Six seed, maybe next year better.”

While six was the number of the night, it hasn’t trumped 16 as the team’s magic number.

“We know to establish yourself as a power in women’s basketball you have to make it to the Sweet 16,” said Joseph.

“Getting to the Sweet 16, that’s the only thing that’s on our minds right now,” added junior Alex Montgomery. “Taking care of the first round and the second round and moving forward. Doing better than we did last year.”

Tech will get its chance Sunday night, taking the floor of the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., and taking on the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock (Tip-off is scheduled for 7:16 E.T. and the game will be televised regionally by ESPN2. WREK-FM will handle radio coverage).

Last year, Tech advanced to the second round for the second time in three seasons, but lost to Oklahoma. Its second-round opponent this season would be…Oklahoma, which plays its home games at…Lloyd Noble Center.

Home court advantage in the NCAA Tournament is something of a sore spot for Joseph, whose 2008 team lost to Iowa State in Des Moines and last year beat Iowa despite playing in Iowa City. Joseph, who felt her team deserved its sixth seed but also merited a neutral-court opponent, hopes her team takes their challenge of their Tournament rematch at Oklahoma as an opportunity to take out a top-10 team.

She’s also quick to point out that the Sooners are Tech’s second-round opponent. The Jackets have have to go through Arkansas-Little Rock and she is quite aware of the legend of the Trojan horse.

“You can’t overlook Arkansas-Little Rock, with a record of 26-6,” said Joseph of the regular-season Sun Belt Conference champions, who were 17-1 during their conference slate and will be making their first NCAA Tournament appearance. “Anytime somebody goes 26-6 they’ve got my respect. That’s a pretty special team so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

“No team is a nobody at this point,” agreed Ardossi. “You make it into the 64 and it’s a big deal. So we’re not going to overlook them at all.”

As the night wound down, the crowd that packed the Georgia Tech Athletic Association Lobby to watch the Selection show — a crowd that included dignitaries such as Institute President “Bud” Peterson and Athletic Director Dan Radakovich (Men’s basketball point guard Iman Shumpert also was there for a show of support), Ardossi, fellow senior Tiffany Blackmon and Montgomery, were given an opportunity for some final words.

“We’re going to make you proud of us,” said Montgomery.

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