Top 10 Stories of 2013-14 - #2 Women's Basketball Earns NCAA Tournament Berth
BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College resumes its look back at the 2013-14 athletic campaign with Top 10 Stories from the past year including the No. 2 story – the women's basketball team earning a berth in the 2013-14 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.
"We had high expectations for our season," stated 27-year Head Coach Mary Beth Spirk. "We felt we had a championship team and a team that could make the NCAA tourney. We talked about getting to the tourney at the end of the 2012-13 season. We did not want to go back to the ECAC tourney with the five seniors."
The Greyhounds reached the postseason for the 12th straight season in 2013-14, and for the ninth time in school history that appearance included a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Moravian had a 20-8 overall record last winter, playing three games in the postseason with two in the Landmark Conference Tournament and an NCAA First Round contest.
"The 2013-14 year was an amazing season," said sophomore forward Alesha Marcks. "The team set goals for ourselves and we accomplished most of them. One of the goals was making the NCAA tournament but that is always a goal for every year."
"The team was really looking forward to the 2013-14 season and making it to the NCAA tournament was definitely a goal from preseason and something that drove us through games and practices throughout the year," explained sophomore guard Emily MacDonnell. "I think the team mainly stayed focused and were not expecting much, especially since we just missed the NCAA tournament during the 2012-13 season. I was thinking anything could happen. It was a great feeling to know that our hard work had paid off and exciting to be apart of such a big tournament."
Moravian opened the year at the Southwestern University Tournament in Texas, falling to No. 19 Trinity University before the Greyhounds started a winning streak. The Hounds defeated host Southwestern before returning North to defeat The College of New Jersey. Moravian won its home opener against Albright College, and the squad finished out November with a victory at DeSales University to complete the opening month at 4-1.
The Greyhounds opened December with a 73-68 win over rival Muhlenberg College in Johnston Hall before a road victory at No. 23 Juniata College to begin the Landmark Conference season. Moravian returned home to defeat Centenary College in a game that saw the Hounds set the school record with 22 blocked shots but also saw 2013 All-American junior forward Alexis Wright lost for the rest of the year with an injury.
"I think everyone stepped up after Alexis was hurt, but especially the seniors," commented Spirk. "Each one contributed a little bit more, on and off the court. They wanted to ensure we would have a great season, not just a good one."
Moravian picked up its eighth straight win with a Landmark triumph over The United States Merchant Marine Academy before heading to the semester break at 8-2 after a loss at No. 11 Montclair State University on December 17.
The Hounds got back on the court by winning the 13th Annual Moravian Winter Classic, their eighth tournament title, with victories over John Jay College and Immaculata University. Moravian picked up victories over Ursinus College and Goucher College to improve to 12-2.
The Greyhounds headed to Drew University on January 15 looking for more than their fourth Landmark win of the year. Coach Spirk entered the contest one win shy of becoming the 21st NCAA Division III coach to reach 500 career victories. After clinging to a 28-27 halftime lead, the Hounds pulled away in the second half for a 58-44 win and the milestone.
Moravian felt an emotional drain after the milestone victory at Drew, dropping an overtime game at The Catholic University of America three days later. The Hounds would bounce back with a two-point win at Susquehanna University and then a last-second, one-point victory at No. 25 The University of Scranton.
"My greatest memory of the season was beating Scranton at Scranton in the final seconds of the game when Katie O'Rourke hit two foul shots to put us ahead by one," commented MacDonnell. "It was definitely the most exciting and emotion-filled game I have ever played in."
The Hounds ran their winning streak to four games with wins over Goucher and Drew to start February before a three-point loss to Juniata College in Moravian's annual Play 4Kay game. The Greyhounds have been the top NCAA Division III team in the country in working with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness. Moravian has led the country in funds raised for six straight years including $12,573 in 2014 for a six-year total of $57,933.
The Greyhounds picked up wins USMMA and Susquehanna to clinch a berth in the Landmark Tournament before falling to Scranton by a point. Moravian closed out the regular season with a loss to Catholic on Senior Day, setting up a trip to Washington, D.C. four days later for a rematch with the Cardinals in the Landmark Tournament.
Moravian would get its revenge in the playoffs, defeating Catholic, 66-65 in overtime, to advance to the Landmark Championship game at Scranton.
"After we beat Catholic on the road, I figured that we had locked a spot for the NCAA," Spirk said. "Though until our name was called, nothing was for sure."
The Hounds came up short in the title game against the Royals but did see senior guard Katie O'Rourke become the 23rd player in school history to score 1,000 points and the first to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 steals.
The Greyhounds gathered to watch the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, March 3, and the squad wouldn't have to wait long as Moravian was part of the first four-team site announced.
"Excitement, nerves, pure joy from all the players and coaches ....knowing that all our efforts for the past year were rewarded," Spirk recalled from Selection Show Monday.
The Hounds were headed to Montclair State for the second time this winter to take on Cabrini College. Despite falling to the Cavaliers in the opening round, Moravian had reached the 20-win plateau for the 17th time in program history.
"There were so many memorable games," explained Spirk. "Beating TCNJ at their place was huge for our confidence early. As well as beating Juniata on the road early. Then even though we lost to Montclair, we realized we could play against a really good team without Alexis. The win at Scranton was one of the best I have been a part of in all my years of coaching. And then even better was the win at Catholic to get to the championship game after losing a few days before to them."
O'Rourke led the postseason honors for Moravian being named to both the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Division III Honorable Mention All-America and Women's DIII News Honorable Mention All-America Teams. O'Rourke was also on the Landmark All-Conference First Team and the D3hoops.com All-Mid-Atlantic Region Third Team while being named the Landmark Senior Scholar-Athlete for Women's Basketball. Senior forward Laura Jordan also earned a spot on the Landmark All-Conference Second Team.
Those two seniors along with guards Danielle Brogan and Alyssa Hann and forward Ericka Blair helped the program to 73-40 record over the last four years with four postseason appearances, a pair of ECAC South Tournament Runner-Up finishes and this past winter's berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"It was a bit of a shock and struggle with the injury to Alexis, but the resilience and will to succeed was so strong with this team, that they were a joy to coach," Spirk said when assessing the season. "We never felt sorry for ourselves but approached each game with the same drive and determination from game one to game 28. The season was as good a year I have had in all my years of coaching. These memories were special and will last a life time. I am pretty sure I had a smile on my face from October to March, and it was because of the seniors who led us to such success, on and off the court."
While the Greyhounds lost five seniors, Marcks and Wright look to lead the Hounds forward in 2014-15.
"Our goal is just to keep pushing each other everyday to be as good and even better than the players that we lost," stated Marcks. "We have big shoes to fill in this year, but if we just have the right attitude and heart I believe that we can do it."
Top 10 Stories of 2013-14
#10 – Women's Basketball Leads DIII in Blocked
#9 – Seven Hounds Earn All-America Honors
#8 – Negron Becomes 3rd Hound to Rush for 1,000 Yards in a Season
#7 – Moravian Captures Matte Award for First Time Since 2002-03
#6 – O'Rourke First Hound to Four Milestones
#5 – Men's Indoor Track & Field Wins 5th Straight Landmark Conference Title
#4 – Kristopher Joint & Katie O'Rourke Named Senior Athletes of the Year
#3 – Hounds Claim Triple Crown of Landmark Championships in Women's Cross Country and Track & Field
#2 – Women's Basketball Earns NCAA Tournament Berth
#1 – TBA