Toledo's Mariella Santucci stops Creighton's Marissa Janning during the second half of Friday's NCAA Tournament game. Santucci is one of many underclassmen who played a significant role in Toledo's 25-9 season. ASSOCIATED PRESS
CORVALLIS, Ore. — For the University of Toledo women’s basketball team, the future is bright.
Despite a setback in a 76-49 loss to Creighton in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Rockets have a lot to look forward to.
UT had just two seniors — Janice Monakana and Sophie Reecher — and have a roster full of young players. With junior Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott, sophomores Mikaela Boyd, Kaayla McIntyre, Halee Printz, and Olivia Cunningham, and freshman Mariella Santucci among others returning, the Rockets should learn from this NCAA tournament experience and return strong for the 2017-18 season.
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“I think the future is bright,” Boyd said. “We have a lot of quick guards coming in and we have a lot of quick guards already here. “I think this game will help. Now we have some experience and I think it will be good for us going forward. I think is very bright for us, because this youth has gained experience and next year we will be better.”
This season provided a great run from a young team bolstered by the two senior leaders in Monakana and Reecher.
“This has been the most fun year I’ve had,” Monakana said. “I’ve been pushed my four years at Toledo, and there is just no other school I would have rather gone to. I’m appreciative to everyone that has pushed me, my teammates, my coaches. I think this season is one that I will remember forever.”
With such a young roster, heading into the season, Toledo was picked to tie for second place in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division, and end the season tied for third at 12-6. But the team got hot at the right time, winning eight consecutive games to close the season and 11 of its last 12. The young team got experience playing in pressure games down the stretch and got to experience the NCAA tournament, the first time for the UT program since 2001.
“I don’t think anyone in this room was predicting this, but the great thing is that we did it,” UT coach Tricia Cullop said. “We did it riding the shoulders of some really young kids. Mariella Santucci is a freshman, Boyd is a sophomore, Kaayla McIntyre is a sophomore, Sarah St-Fort is a sophomore. I’m excited about our future, because so many of those kids got a taste of what this is like. Once you get a chance to experience the NCAA tournament, how could you not want to come back here? It’s hard to tell them what is like until you have experienced. I’m so proud of them that they have won 11 of their last 12 before tonight to get here.”
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