If there is one lesson the Sacred Heart University (SHU) women’s basketball team taught us this season, it’s to never give up.
After finishing with an 8-17 overall record last season and starting off this season 1-8, it seemed like the women were primed for another losing season.
However, the team quickly turned it around and went on to win 18 of their last 24 games, finishing with an overall record of 19-14.
The women finished the regular season as the second overall seed in the Northeastern Conference (NEC) tournament, and would go onto beat number one seed Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in the championship game, securing them a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Much of the team’s success was because of the play of freshman guard Ny’Ceara Pryor. In her first season at SHU, she took the NEC by storm, winning rookie, defensive, and player of the year.
“Making history so early in my collegiate career has been an amazing feeling,” said Pryor. “Individual accolades didn’t matter if we didn’t win the whole thing. Winning the NEC championship was a feeling I can’t explain.”
Pryor was satisfied with what her and her team accomplished in her rookie season, but she is ready to put that behind her and focus her attention on next year.
“We are returning almost the whole championship team, so my expectations are to win back-to-back NEC championships,” said Pryor.
After beating FDU, the SHU women’s basketball team went on to defeat Southern University by a score of 57-47 in the “first-four” round of the NCAA tournament.
This win secured them the number 16 seed in the women’s March Madness tournament and set the stage for a first-round matchup versus first-seeded Stanford.
“It was an incredible experience to get the chance to play against a team like Stanford,” said head coach Jessica Mannetti. “Although we didn’t come away with a victory, it didn’t feel like a loss. We won the conference championship and we made history by becoming the first NEC team to win a game in the women’s NCAA tournament.”
Mannetti, who has been with the team since 2013, has watched this program develop before her eyes.
“It was so much fun to be a part of this journey,” said Mannetti. “The season we had was nothing short of magical.”
Freshman guard Amelia Wood also played a role in her team’s success and was very appreciative of the team’s journey this season.
“I am very grateful that my team and I had the opportunity to be out in California for March Madness,” said Wood. “Our team didn’t give up when we played against Stanford, we kept fighting until the very end and I am so grateful that I am a part of this team.”
While their Cinderella story ended, Wood knows this season was the start of something special.
“It is a great feeling for both my team and I knowing that we made history,” said Wood. “That was our goal when we went out there. We kept saying our story hasn’t ended yet, and when it did end, it ended with our name in the record books.”
Sacred Heart University Athletics contributed to this article.