13th-seed Lehigh women’s basketball will open up its NCAA Tournament play against 4th-seed West Virginia on March 21 at 8:00 p.m. on ESPNU.
Lehigh is 10-5 going into Sunday’s game, with four of those losses coming to Bucknell. They also didn’t play in any non-league games because of COVID-19.
Sophomore Frannie Hottinger, the team’s leading scorer, said it was fun to see them come up with the 13-seed.
“When we’ve played Bucknell five times, it’s hard to know how good of a team we can be,” Hottinger said. “ I think the 13-seed is perfect. I’m excited.”
While this year’s NCAA Tournament will be different, the mission remains the same. They’re looking to shock the world in the big dance.
One thing that will help this team is their chemistry. Just by watching this team, you can see how close they are on and off the court.
Senior forward Mariah Sexe said what makes this team so special is they gel really well together.
“We’re just such a supportive team,” Sexe said. “We want everyone to do well in their role and have the selflessness aspect…We’re just such a talented group of girls. The support and confidence that we have in ourselves and our team and system in general has gotten us to this point…We believe in each other, and that’s really awesome.”
Sexe said it didn’t feel real that they’d be playing in the NCAA Tournament until head coach Sue Troyan told them an hour after they won the Patriot League Championship that the charter plane would be coming on Tuesday.
“With the viewing party today, it’s all kind of hitting you, and it’s getting me really excited,” Sexe said.
While the excitement is still there, they’ll have to prepare for a tough 4th-seeded West Virginia team, who is 21-6 on the season, with five of their losses coming from conference games, just like the Mountain Hawks.
“We’ll learn a lot about them tonight as we scout through things,” Troyan said. “We’ve played really tough competition when you look at our pod. We beat two top 100 teams when you look at NET rankings… I think it will prepare us for the tournament. We’re a tough team with the ability to shoot the ball, and I think with our growth on the defensive end of things over the last couple of weeks. I’m super excited and really confident in them… I think they have something to prove.”
Troyan said she thinks consistency and playing their game is going to be the main key for them to make a run in the big dance. They know they can shoot threes, hunt layups, and stop the ball. It’s just a matter of putting it to the test when it matters most.
Despite looking forward to March Madness, basketball is more than a game to this team.
“(The team has)learned a lot about each other and about what basketball really means to them,” Troyan said. “It’s much bigger than just basketball and why we play this game. You see that with their love for each other out on the court with the way they play together. I think we learned that in early January that this is much bigger than just basketball and winning and losing. It’s about team. It’s about family. It’s about support. It’s about being there for one another and having each other’s back. I just give the kids all the credit in the world for what they’ve endured together this season to get to this point.”