By: Steve Miller – Sports Editor
As the new season got rolling, the Dayton women’s basketball team faced an uphill climb–a rigorous non-conference schedule with a head coach less than two months into her new job. After a 2-1 start to the year, the team dropped five of their next six games. But then something clicked.
“During that finals week, you could just sense it, you could feel the team coming together,” head coach Shauna Green said during a press conference this week. “I felt it during that break. I think they felt confidence and got confidence because we had time to really adjust things and had time to get better in terms of x-and-o stuff.”
The Flyers suffered a sloppy loss to Toledo on Dec. 9, but then had 11 days to regroup before their trip to the Florida Sunshine Classic on Dec. 20.
“When we went to Florida and played Texas A&M and got that big win against a really good team, they haven’t lost since they played us, that was big for our girls.”
UD went on to defeat Old Dominion the next day and Liberty University a week later before dropping a game to Virginia. But since that last loss, the team has reeled off five consecutive conference wins, including a road win over Saint Louis, who had not lost in conference up to that point.
“We really came together as a team, we sat down, we had some meetings,” redshirt senior guard Kelley Austria said of the turnaround. “We decided we’re gonna start our new season off and we’ve been playing really well ever since.”
“That’s what Dayton basketball is,” Green said. “I’m going to always put that pressure on myself and I want this team to experience as much success as we possibly can and try to make a run in the A10, and obviously the goal is the NCAA Tournament.”
The 2016 was the first time the Flyers missed the NCAA Tournament since 2009, and that result did not sit well with a team that was fresh off an Elite Eight run in 2015.
Players who were integral to that Elite Eight squad have buckled down to ensure that 2017 ends on a much higher note than last season.
“[Jenna Burdette], Kelley [Austria], Saicha [Grant-Allen], [Christy] Macioce, Andy [Cvitcovic], I mean we have really good leadership up top and they bought in and they just keep working. And they’re delivering that same message that we are as a staff,” Green said.
Burdette, a junior point guard, leads the team in minutes played (32.1) and points scored (12.7) per game. And when the team has needed it most, Burdette had embraced her leadership role. She reeled off 21 points in the win over Saint Louis.
Austria reached a milestone with her 1000th career point on Jan. 10 in a win over Duquesne. She scored 18 points in that game and has scored in double-digits in six consecutive games. This comes a year after she tore her ACL for the second time in her career.
“It meant a lot,” Austria said of reaching her 1000th point and her teammates’ support of her. “They were just yelling on the bus,” she said of the celebration.
At 5-1 in conference and 11-7 overall, Dayton is tied for second place in the Atlantic 10 as Fordham is the only remaining unbeaten team in conference.
Now the Flyers look to keep their success rolling. They take on conference foe Saint Joseph’s at UD Arena on Saturday afternoon in a breast cancer awareness game. Green keeps the meaning of that game in perspective.
“It’s a big game,” Green said. “For me, personally, it’s huge, it touches me. My mom had [breast cancer] when I was a sophomore in college, and [she] luckily survived…Basketball is just a game, and life is the most important thing.”
Photo by Christian Cubacub/Staff Photographer