By: Dan Durkin – Staff Writer
The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team has had a rollercoaster ride of a season to this point.
With only two games left on the regular season before the Atlantic 10 conference tournament, the Flyers’ record sits at 13-12 overall and 6-8 in conference play.
It’s been a season full of close losses, winning streaks, losing streaks and a lion’s share of injuries, but not consistency. Dayton started the season 6-1, with wins over Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Louisville. In their win against Toledo on Dec. 2, the Flyers lost one of their best players, senior guard Kelley Austria. She tore her ACL in the game and was lost for the season.
Since that game, the Flyers went on a losing stretch, going 3-8 but then were able to go on a five-game winning streak, and have now proceeded to lose three games in a row. This can’t only be contributed to the loss of Austria, but also injuries to other key players, such as senior guard Amber Deane, who hasn’t played since the Flyers’ loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 11. There is also no clear timetable for her to return, with only two regular season games left. Austria and Deane’s injuries are the team’s two notable long-term injuries, but along the way the Flyers have had numerous players miss games due to injury.
It’s been a season unlike any other for head coach Jim Jabir, who’s had to make a lot of adjustments to the team. The injuries have created a domino effect, forcing players into unfamiliar roles, which has caused Jabir to monitor players’ minutes more closely, both in practice and games. It’s been a season of tough luck, but Jabir still appreciates his team’s effort.
“They haven’t quit—they’re still working hard,” Jabir said. “For eight years, we’ve had a lot of luck, and this year, we’ve had some key injuries. You can’t make excuses and you can’t pout. You [have] just got to keep fighting.”
With the injuries, Jabir has had to rely on some younger players to step up and play more. Jabir sees the future arriving a little sooner, which is a bit of a silver lining to find among the unfortunate injury scenario.
“The future will be enhanced by what they are learning now,” Jabir said. “We are playing a lot of young kids and they are getting valuable experience, and we will benefit from that down the road.”
The Flyers were on a four-game winning streak heading into their Feb. 10 game against George Mason. The Flyers were able to win that game convincingly, 81-58, and were led by sophomore guard Jenna Burdette, who had 23 points and junior center Saicha Grant-Allen, who had 17 points. This moved the Flyers win streak to five games, dating back to Jan. 24.
Unfortunately, the five-game streak would come to an end with a loss to George Washington on Valentine’s Day, 72-62. The Flyers relied on their back court to do a lot of the scoring, with Burdette having 23 points and freshman guard Lauren Cannatelli chipping in with 19 points of her own. The Flyers got off to a slow start to the game but tried to claw their way back, and their comeback came up short. The Flyers tried to bounce back from that loss on the road against Massachusetts on Feb. 17, but the Flyers came up short against UMass, despite a career-high 26 points from junior guard Christy Macioce.
Dayton had another furious comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, led by Macioce, who had 14 of her 26 points in the quarter. But the Flyers were unable to overcome Massachusetts, falling 76-69. This pushed the Flyers losing streak to two.
In the process, the Flyers lost another player due to injury. Junior forward Andrijana Cvitkovic rolled her ankle in the game. Cvitkovic was unavailable for the Flyers as they turned their attention toward conference leaders Duquesne on Sunday at UD Arena.
The Flyers played Duquesne tough. It was a game full of lead changes, big plays and some overtime to go along with it. The Flyers had their chances to win the game, but Duquesne was able to pull out the win, 76-72, pushing UD’s losing streak to three.
It was a tough loss, but Jabir was proud of the way his team fought and the grit they had. However, he knows they still aren’t getting the job done.
“It’s disappointing,” Jabir said. “Today we were the better team, but we are so mentally weak in so many areas, whether it was foul shots at critical times or decisions. We’re just not very tough mentally and that what’s disappointing—we had chances to win the game.”
Dayton finished the game 17-of-30 from the free throw line, while Duquesne was much more solid, converting 18-of-22. To Jabir’s point, the Flyers also committed 18 turnovers.
Cannatelli led the Flyers with 18 points. Grant-Allen had a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Burdette was three points away from a triple-double. The sophomore dished out 14 assists, tying a single-game program record and grabbed 10 rebounds. Grant-Allen, along with many of the players, thought this was a game they let slip away.
“We gave a lot, but it was a game we felt we lost,” Grant-Allen said. “I don’t feel it was a game that they beat us.”
The Flyers will look to bounce back from this loss at home Wednesday, Feb. 24 against St. Louis. The Flyers will finish up the regular season against Fordham at home on Sunday, Feb. 28 and then look to continue their season in conference tournament play starting March 2.
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Photo: Dayton freshman guard Lauren Cannatelli (right) made four 3-pointers on Sunday afternoon en route to a team-leading 18 points. However, the Flyers eventually fell in overtime to Duquesne, 76-72. Sophomore guard Jenna Burdette was three points away from a triple-double, and junior center Saicha Grant-Allen had a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Chris Santucci/Multimedia Editor