The Collegian
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Spiders lose to UNCW in the first round of the WNIT

The University of Richmond women's basketball team ended its season with a 63-54 loss against University of North Carolina, Wilmington in the Women's National Invitation Tournament last Thursday.

"Overall, I think we had a pretty good year," said head coach Michael Shafer. "I am not going to say a good year, though it certainly wasn't a bad year."

The team ended its regular season 18-11 and secured a bye in the 2011 Atlantic-10 Tournament. The team made it to the WNIT for the third year in a row, but lost against UNC-Wilmington in the first round.

"I think when we started the year, we had a lot more depth than we finished the year with, which really affected our basketball team and the way we played," Shafer said.

He said that losing several key players at the same position, namely the guards, had negatively affected both the defensive and offensive capability of the team.

"As a coach, you constantly question yourself how you can best avoid injuries," Shafer said. "But when you go back and look at it all, you can't. You can't avoid it. It's part of the game."

He said that early in the season, the team had been very good offensively, playing "exciting, up-tempo basketball." But toward the end of the season, it became less potent. He also said the team had a strong defense early on, but struggled as the season came to a close.

Senior guard Brittani Shells was named All-Conference first team and defensive team, and All-Academic Team.

Shells said that this year's team was pretty good but had performed inconsistently.

"We did pretty well out of conference," she said. "But going into conference we were like a roller coaster going up and down."

At the last game in the WNIT, she said she hadn't been able to perform the way she wanted to because of severe foot pain. She discovered after the game that the pain had been caused by a strained tendon.

"I guess it was a blessing in disguise," she said. "I would have injured it more if we had won the game. But nobody wants to end their senior year with a loss on their own court, especially if you know you could have won," she said.

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She said that she was excited for the future, and that she was preparing for the WNBA combine on April 2 that could determine her path after college.

Senior center Crystal Goring, whom Shafer described as a "tremendous force" for the team this year, said, "Considering we had a lot of freshmen this year, I think it was basically a building year. I think we did pretty good for having so many new players."

She said that she was happy with how she had performed, but she thought she could have helped the team more by playing more aggressively and confidently.

"It's a bittersweet feeling," she said "I enjoyed playing on the team and I will miss the scene."

Shafer said he had been pleased with the performance of freshman forward Genevieve Okoro, and said he thought she would be an important player in the future.

Okoro said that she was glad to have been able to play as a freshman.

"It made me happy that my coach gave me that opportunity to play and see what I could do," she said.

She said her transition from high school to college basketball could have gone better, but being able to play in games was an accomplishment.

She said she would do everything she could to be better next year, especially at technical skills and body control.

Shafer said that junior guard Abby Oliver was one of the players who had made a significant improvement this year.

Oliver said, "Getting into the NCAA was our goal, so not achieving that goal was disappointing, but at the same time, being able to go to the WNIT was still very rewarding."

Oliver said that she wanted to be a role model for the younger players.

"Overall, I just want our team to have a good team chemistry, play well and hard, and be the toughest team for every single game," she said. "We'll see what happens from there."

Contact staff reporter Masato Tsuruta at masato.tsuruta@richmond.edu

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