The women’s basketball program has become an enemy of its own creation. Due to its dominance in the past, the expectations for the team have become almost too high for reality. Ever since the Lions started making the Elite Eight and Final Four consistently, the Vanguard community began to take their success for granted.
“I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to play in one of the best programs in the nation with teammates that will be lifelong sisters and friends. I’m so thankful to have been a part of this program,” senior Molly Pfohl said.
Thus, during this rough season, it seems as if this was a bad year for the program.
Yet the team still made the national tournament for eight straight seasons.
But for some reason, this almost went without notice.
“The Vanguard basketball team has one of the most prestigious programs in the country and I feel blessed to play under Coach Davis,” senior Danielle Arriola said.
Normally, the Lions enter the tournament as a high seed with eyes on a national championship to go along with the one they captured in 2008. However, this season the Lions were a wild card bid and were given one of the four fifth seeds in the 32-team tournament.
This seeding pitted the Lions against Langston University of Oklahoma. Vanguard was 19th in the nation entering the tournament, with Langston coming in at 13th.
Shooting woes were the Lions’ downfall in the contest; they eventually lost 54-47. The perimeter-oriented Lions failed to find offense rhythm and the stronger, more physical play of Langston proved to be the deciding factor.
“Playing in my last collegiate game was definitely bittersweet, but I have zero regrets and I played as hard as I physically could,” Arriola said. “I wish we would have gone further in the tournament but I’m honestly so proud of our team for making it to the tournament and giving it our all.”
They played one of the nation’s toughest schedules without many keys players and with youth at many important positions. The Lions will lose senior All GSAC players Sarah Boyd and Molly Pfohl, who were both key contributors on the 2008 National Championship squad.
“I feel good about having my senior year next year. I know it was the right decision just because of how long it has taken to get back. We had a tough year this year and we want to get back to being on top,” Paige Halberg said.
Fifth year senior Halberg, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury will lead the Lions next year, who will feature new faces. As per their team motto: they aren’t rebuilding, they are reloading.
The Lions will again make another push for a national championship and add to the collection of GSAC championships under Russ Davis.