SAN ANTONIO- “Underdogs.” It’s what people have been calling this tough and gritty Lehigh women’s basketball squad.
While this team embraces their underdog mentality coming from a smaller school, they know what kind of a team they are heading into today’s first-round NCAA Tournament game against 4th-seed West Virginia.
The Mountain Hawks were the No. 4 seed in the Patriot League Tournament, when they beat No.5 Holy Cross at home, defeated No. 1 Bucknell away, and went up to No. 2 Boston University to pull off a 64-54 win, which secured their first Patriot League Championship since 2010.
In today’s contest, with them being the 13-seed, they are also considered the underdogs, but head coach Sue Troyan said they have an advantage.
“We’re playing nine on five right now with the angels above us right now that are surrounding our team, and I think that’s helped us along the way,” Troyan said.
Two years ago, senior forward Mariah Sexe lost her mom to cancer. In January, in the opening weekend for Lehigh, junior forward Emma Grothaus’ mom also passed away. Two more players also lost family members during the shortened season.
Troyan said in August she told her team the two themes of the year for them to be successful were going to be adaptability and resilience. Seven months later, those words hold true.
The strength that this team has is the reason why they’re still playing right now. They easily could have forfeited the rest of their season after dealing with COVID-19 pauses and tragedies off the court, but the Mountain Hawks never gave up or lost sight of what they wanted to accomplish.
“There were times in the season where we questioned whether we should really be doing this,” Troyan said. “ It always came back to what they wanted, and they always say they wanted to play and they wanted to compete for a championship, and to get to this point and compete and win is very deserving for what they have endured.”
Sophomore wing Frannie Hottinger said in February, they didn’t know what the rest of the season would hold, but they learned to take things day by day.
“We didn’t think too far ahead of the future, and that helped us get to this point,” Hottinger said.
The Mountain Hawks have won their last four games. While many would describe this team as underdogs, this team knows what they’re capable of.
“We’re obviously going to have to play very well, but I think it’s a team if we play well that we’re capable of beating West Virginia,” Troyan said.