On Friday, the GW women’s basketball team may be looking in a mirror. In the season opener against the University of Virginia, GW will be facing a squad that, at quick glance, appears to be very similar to the Colonials.
Like GW, the Cavaliers have one senior, Tiffany Sardin – a third-year captain who stepped up her game in the second half of last season. She earned a spot on the Atlantic Coast Conference all-tournament team after scoring 21 points against the University of North Carolina and 18 points against Florida State in the first two rounds of the ACC Tournament.
Virginia also has five freshmen, the same number as the Colonials. Just as Jazmine and Jessica Adair are from nearby Anacostia, Cavaliers freshman Lyndra Little is also from the District. And both squads have three juniors; the only apparent team difference comes in the number of sophomores (Virginia has three to GW’s four).
“I don’t know much about the team that Virginia has this year,” senior Jessica Simmonds said. “I think as long as we come out and play our basketball and compete and play to the best of our ability I think that we are evenly matched up and it is possible that we can win.”
Coaching is yet another mark of similarity. Virginia’s Debbie Ryan is a 28-year veteran in Charlottesville, Va., where she has led the Cavaliers to 19 20-win seasons. GW head coach Joe McKeown has guided the Colonials to 14 20-win seasons in his 16 years in Foggy Bottom. Each coach has also been named coach of the year in their respective conferences.
Virginia opened its season with an 85-55 win over EA Sports, a group of former collegiate players. Sardin posted a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds in the game, just as GW’s lone senior, Jessica Simmonds, did with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the Colonials’ 73-51 exhibition win over Everyone’s Internet All-Stars.
Both squads had similar seasons last year. The Cavaliers finished the season at 21-11 after posting an 8-6 record in the ACC, while GW finished at 23-9 and 13-3 in the Atlantic 10. Virginia received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, where they defeated Old Dominion in the first round before losing to Minnesota in the second round. The Colonials, meanwhile, also received an at-large bid and progressed to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, beating Ole Miss before falling to North Carolina.
Despite being only hours apart by car, the two programs do not have much history.
“We haven’t played very much,” McKeown said. “Even though our schools are very close, we just haven’t been able to get a series going. I believe this is the first time they’ve ever played here.”
The last time the Colonials faced the Cavaliers was almost exactly five years ago to the date, where Ryan’s squad was victorious 72-66 at home. In the all-time series, GW is 0-9 versus the area school. The Cavaliers have played in Foggy Bottom, although not during McKeown’s reign. In November 1982 GW lost 76-57 at the Smith Center.
This season, both squads will head to the Caribbean at the end of November; GW will play in the Junkanoo Jam Tournament in the Bahamas while Virginia will participate in the Paradise Jam Tournament in St. Thomas. Each team will also play Yale early in the season, while the Cavaliers will also face Richmond, whom the Colonials play twice during Atlantic 10 Conference play later in the season.
Despite all the similarities, McKeown is more interested in the state of his own team than his opponent.
“I’m more concerned about us than Virginia right now because we’re still trying to get good at what we do,” he said. “They’re a great program too, they were in the NCAA tournament last year, so their aspirations are like ours.”
The game is set to begin at 7 p.m. at the Smith Center on Friday night, Nov. 18.