The West Chester University Women’s basketball team got the experience of a lifetime on Sunday, Nov. 2, traveling to the infamous Gampel Pavillion to take on the two-time defending national champion UConn Huskies. A slight difference from their usual competition, the Huskies put their division I power on display, and dominated the Lady Rams 115-26.
UConn is one of the most dominant basketball programs in history, on both the men and women’s side. Last season, the UConn basketball program was the first in history to win national titles in both men and women’s division I basketball in the same season. Along with a list of accomplishments and awards, the UConn women’s team has achieved greatness, going undefeated for two straight seasons.
Putting the score aside, the game was seen as an opportunity for an overall experience of a lifetime. First-year head Coach Kiera Wooden took her team to face off against West Chester alumni and head coach of UConn, Geno Auriemma. Auriemma graduated from West Chester in 1977, going on to the role of assistant coach at Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Virginia. He eventually landed the spot as UConn head coach in 1985, and the rest is history. Combining for nine national championships since 1985, Auriemma holds the highest winning percentage (.869) in all of division I basketball, men or women’s.
For Wooden, this is her first year at the reigns. After long time head coach Deirdre Kane stepped down during the offseason, Wooden stepped up to the plate, accepting the job passed to her from Kane. Wooden worked as an assistant under Kane for the past ten years, and has been helping the Lady Rams basketball programs winning ways since her years as a player. Wooden played under Kane for four seasons, spanning from 1999-2003. During her time as a player Wooden received numerous awards, including PSAC East rookie of the year.
In a battle of legend versus rookie, the division I powerhouse Huskies gave it their all. Forcing 24 turnovers leading to 45 points, the Huskies imposed their game speed on the Rams, which was too much for them to handle. All five starters for the Huskies finished in double figures.
For the Rams, Serifat Junaid scored six points, which led all West Chester scorers. Red-shirt freshman Portia Speller contributed with five points and two assists. Despite the Rams struggling all afternoon, the learning experience was one they will never forget.
Junior guard Jasmen Clark commented on the experience, “It was an awesome experience. At first we were kind of nervous, but after all the jitter everyone had were out, we just went out there to play for fun and the love of the game.”
Clark seemed to enjoy the experience, despite the lopsided loss, stating “We played hard, and if we played as hard as we did against them, we will be great this year. It was a learning experience and we never gave up.”
A UConn media outlet commented on the loss, saying that Auriemma was “running up the score” and humiliating West Chester by doing so. It seems as if West Chester did not take it as humiliating, but kept their minds straight on the learning aspect.
As the season approaches, the Rams will look to top an impressive 2013-2014 season. Finishing the season 19-9 with a strong run in the PSAC tournament that came to and end at the hands of PSAC champions Edinboro, the Lady Rams will look to Junaid, along with Juniors Dallas Ely and Brittany Sicinski to take charge of the young Golden Rams team.
With five starters returning, the Rams have their sights set quite high for the rapidly approaching season. Ely returns as a Division II All-American honorable mention, along with Sicinski who has been a force on offense and defense for the Lady Rams since her freshman year. The two will likely be the cornerstones for this West Chester team.
As for keys to matching, Clark made it sound quite simple. “Communication will be the key this year, and playing together as a team.” If the Lady Rams can accomplish those two main points, another exciting season is certainly brewing for Rams basketball fans.
AJ Arcaini is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AA788494@wcupa.edu