13-seed Lehigh women’s basketball opens up its NCAA Tournament play against 4th-seed West Virginia at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow in San Antonio, Texas.
The last time the two teams played each other was in 1999 when the Mountain Hawks came out on top with an 89-73 victory. Lehigh will be hoping for the same result tomorrow.
The Mountaineers are 21-6. They lost to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship. Sophomore wing Frannie Hottinger said they’re very athletic, physical, fast, and all-around just a really good team.
“They have threats in the posts and guards, so in practice, we’ve really emphasized pressuring each other hard and how to handle the ball and still be ball tough if you have a lot of pressure on you,” Hottinger said.
Despite everything that’s surrounded the women’s tournament this week due to the discrepancies between the men’s and women’s tournament with equipment, COVID tests, swag bags, and getting time to walk outside, the team is excited for the opportunity to compete.
Just last year, Lehigh was set to take on Boston University when COVID-19 canceled their Patriot League Semifinal game.
March Madness is the biggest college basketball tournament in the world. Many basketball players dream of one day making it to this moment. While this year is a little different, junior point guard Clair Steele said the experience has been awesome.
“It’s been a quick turnaround,” Steele said. “We won Sunday, and we left Tuesday. I’ve just been trying to take it all in. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures just to have these memories.”
Steele added that it’s a little different because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“I have a couple of friends that are here, but you only see the teams passing by,” Steele said. “It’s just really awesome being put up in a nice hotel…Even going into the facilities is awesome.”
Tomorrow’s game will also mark the first time where this team will have fans at their game since March 9, 2020, when they defeated Colgate in the Patriot League Quarterfinals.
“It’ll be fun,” Hottinger said. “It will definitely be different. I know a lot of our families are coming, who we haven’t been able to see since before Thanksgiving, and so I think that’s awesome. We’ll be able to actually see their support, where (as before) we felt everyone else’s support from afar.”
Although the team arrived in San Antonio on Tuesday, Thursday was their first day of practice. They had to do a two-day quarantine and get two negative tests before practicing.
Head coach Sue Troyan said they did a little bit of Zoom prep while they couldn’t be with each other.
“The kids were also able to do a band Zoom workout together with our trainer,” Troyan said. “We’ve been in a number of quarantines, so we’ve gotten good at how you can do workouts in your hotel and dorm room, so we’ve put that to good use here.”
While this team has an underdog mentality going into the game, some people have predicted the Mountain Hawks to make a big upset, including New York Times reporter Marissa Ingemi and the second gentleman Douglas Emhoff.
“We’re not expected of much from other people, but we know how much we can do personally,” Hottinger said.