By: Dan Durkin – Staff Writer
The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball season came to a close Thursday night in an 89-72 loss to Western Kentucky in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), which the Flyers were invited to play in after failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Flyers finished their season with a 14-15 record overall, definitely not the season most would’ve expected from the Flyers this year.
Sophomore guard Jenna Burdette led the Flyers in their final game with had 19 points, and also chipping in were junior center Saicha Grant-Allen (15 points, 13 rebounds) and sophomore guard JaVonna Layfield (14 points, 12 rebounds) who each had double-doubles.
Senior center Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova, who played in her final game at UD, finished with seven points, four rebounds and two blocks, finishing her career as Dayton’s all-time leader in blocks, which includes both the men and women’s teams. It was a close game throughout, but Western Kentucky was able to pull away at the end.
“I thought we had them,” Cornelie-Sigmundova said after the game. “We ran out of gas at the end. We had them, we played well for 2.5 quarters, but just ran out of gas at the end.”
The Flyers were down 40-36 after two quarters, but then would go on to be outscored by 13 points in the second half and lose 89-72.
It was a season that started with a lot of promise, but finished on a sour note. Injuries mainly served as the Flyers undoing, with a lot of close losses throughout the season as well. It was a team that was coming into the year expecting to be led by their three seniors, guards Amber Deane and Kelley Austria, and Cornelie-Sigmundova. Sigmundova would be the only senior left standing by the end of the year.
Both Deane and Austria were sidelined with injuries that cost them their seasons, both before January, when the bulk of the season heated up. Therefore, it was a season when a lot of younger players had to fill some big roles on the team. As a senior, this wasn’t the kind of season Cornelie-Sigmundova thought it was going to be.
“We started out great, but then Kelley and Amber got hurt, so we had to play a lot of players that weren’t used to playing or in positions they weren’t used to playing in,” Cornelie-Sigmundova said. “It was a struggle trying to fit into new positions, it was weird at the start, but we got better as the season went on.”
Cornelie-Sigmundova hopes to return to her native France after graduating in May, possibly to play basketball professionally.
This season can be viewed as building toward the future for the program, as the young players played more and can take that experience into next season. The Flyers will be without Deane and Cornelie-Sigmundova, but they will get Austria back, as she will be using a fifth year of eligibility. Cornelie-Sigmundova has some advice to give the young players and future UD players.
“Once the season starts you really can’t get better, but you can get better over the summer while no one is watching,” she said. “Take advantage of the time you have by yourself to get better in the off season.”
It’s been a unique season for the Flyers and head coach Jim Jabir, who a couple weeks ago talked about how this season was frustrating, but also how it can help build toward the future.
“For eight years we’ve had a lot of luck [with no major injuries], and this year we’ve had some key injuries,” Jabir said. “You can’t make excuses and you can’t pout, you’ve just got to keep fighting.”
Jabir sees the future starting to come a little sooner as the younger players step up and play more.
“The future will be enhanced by what they are learning now,” he 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 will look to have a productive off-season, as Jabir has vowed to re-evaluate everything in the program to avoid a season like this again.