As USD Coyotes Get Ready to Dance, What Makes Them Special?
Last week, a see of red flooded the Sioux Falls Arena court on Tuesday afternoon, as the University of South Dakota defeated Denver, 82-71 for the Summit League Women's Championship.
Tonight, the Coyotes will hear who they will play in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
USD started off the Summit League tournament by beating Western Illinois, in a thrilling 96-94 victory on Sunday. Rasheal Contreras hit a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds of the game to beat the Leathernecks. On Monday, there was more madness in the semifinals. USD upset South Dakota State, handing the Jackrabbits women with their first-ever loss in the Summit League, winning 72-58. In Tuesday's championship, Denver gave USD all they could handle, but a late second-half surge punched the Coyotes ticket to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, and Summit League title. USD beat Denver, 82-71.
Despite losing last year, playing in the Summit League title game against SDSU helped the Coyotes understand and learn from their mistakes. This year, USD had a lot of red cheering, and maybe even a little blue that made for an great atmosphere to play in.
"Incredible. I mean it's an incredible atmosphere and for our kids. It's just so exciting. There's very few Division I women's basketball players that are able to play in front of a crowd like that and we feel like that it is a remarkable opportunity for us and am glad we got to do that," says head coach Amy Williams.
Harrington was the Summit League tournament MVP (18-of-24 from the field in three games), and a part of the tournament team with Nicole Seekamp (11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and only two turnovers in the title game), but all in all, the Coyotes balance helped them cut down the nets.
"Yeah, I think it's been great. We can lean on our one and only senior with Polly, but a couple of upperclassman with Lisa Loeffler, and Seekamp, who are good leaders, and then young hungry underclassman who have just been open to what they need to do and have been eager, and it's just been good balance for us," shares Williams.
Six total Coyotes were in double figures for USD's win over Denver. Harrington led USD with 16, while Contreras added 13, Margaret McCloud and Seekamp scored 11, and Tia Hemiller, and Bridget Arens both contributed 10 points.
After playing three hard fought games in the Summit League tournament, Williams talks about how proud she was of her team.
"I can't say enough. I kind of have to hold myself back with emotion right now after every game because I'm so proud of this group of kids. Polly as senior, and they are just playing for the right reasons. We have no jealousies on this team. Everybody is for each other, and it's just a special group."
A full team effort definitely made their Summit League title a lot more memorable, and Williams adds her girls are extraordinary young women.
"I think what's special about this team is that we have had to battle a little adversity this year on and off the court. We have had some individuals that have gone through some trials, and we have had some injuries. For our team to continue to stay strong, and be able to play our best down the stretch, it's made us stronger and I'm really proud."
Williams should be satisifed with her team's accomplishment, as she is in her second season as USD women's head coach, and guided the Coyotes to an NCAA tournament appearance in their second year of Division I eligibility.
"I walked into a very good situation at USD, and the coaches that were before me really did a great job of building the program to where it is. To the kids, I give the credit to all the young women in our program who have embraced me as a coach, and as a coaching staff. They have really done a good job of adjusting to a new coach, and doing what we ask, and lots of fight and grit out of this team."