This season has been full of firsts for the GW women’s basketball team. The Colonials played their first season under head coach Mike Bozeman, which meant they played their first season since 1989 without former head coach Joe McKeown. Freshmen Tara Booker and Tiana Myers became backcourt starters in their first season with GW as a result of the Colonials playing their first season in four years without Kimberly Beck.
Given that list, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the Colonials will be facing another first when they tip off against Rhode Island Friday in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. GW finished outside of fourth place in the A-10 this season for the first time in 23 years and as a result, the Colonials will be playing in their first first-round game of the conference tournament since 1986.
For senior Antelia Parrish, who transferred to GW before her junior season, being the fifth seed in the tournament feels different, but not necessarily bad.
“I think it has a different feel,” she said. “This is a different team, you know, different kind of swagger to this team. As opposed to last year we were kind of the team that everybody was gunning for. This year we’re kind of the underdogs.”
As to which role she prefers, Parrish said that not being the top dog doesn’t matter to her and that GW’s position this year might even allow them to sneak up on some of its opponents.
“It really doesn’t matter either way,” she said. “You gotta come in there and you gotta win every game. I think the difference is, this year and being the underdog, is that a lot of people are gonna be sleeping on us, so I think it gives us a lot more momentum.”
As familiar as postseason play is to GW’s upperclassmen, the Colonials’ freshmen will face a daunting task living up to the success of previous teams. GW hasn’t failed to make the NCAA tournament since 2002, and if the team hopes to avoid adding another shortcoming to its list of recent firsts, Booker, Myers and the rest of the young Colonials will have to step up.
“I feel like there’s pressure felt by the entire team, but coach has the utmost confidence in all of us freshmen and he definitely makes it noticeable,” Booker said. “He tells us all the time so we know, we stay confident, we don’t really get nervous anymore.”
Booker also said that any nervousness she feels now will only translate into positive things on the court.
“It’s nervous excitement,” she said. “It’s good excitement. It’s always good to have a little bit of nerves when you go out on the court.”
If Bozeman has any nerves of his own as he approaches his first trip to the conference tournament, he didn’t show it at his team’s practice Wednesday, leaning against the scorer’s table while his assistants ran practice. He said after practice that if his team is to go deep in the tournament, it will be the little things that will get them there.
“We need to get the gritty rebound, we need to get the gritty defensive stop, we need to have a steady flow offensively. So we need to do the dirty work,” Bozeman said. “Along with some of the beauty of basketball, which is the movement of the basketball, hitting shots, those regular things. I’m confident we’ll do those things. It’s the gritty stuff we need to do.”
Despite the fact that GW is playing in a first round game for the first time in many of his players’ lives, Bozeman said he liked his team’s chances.
“We approach it where we’re trying to maximize our potential the same way you would going into it no matter what the seeding is,” he said. “This tournament, to me, is up for grabs . Why can’t we grab it?”