Twenty-one times since November, in a regular season comprised of 27 games, the GW women’s basketball team took the court and lost.
But that is of no concern to the Colonials (6-21, 3-13 Atlantic 10) as they prepare for this weekend’s conference tournament in Upper Marlboro, Md. Those defeats won’t make the trip with them to the Show Place Arena; won’t count against them coming into Friday’s opening-round matchup with Duquesne; won’t stand in the way of them progressing in the postseason.
“It’s not hanging over our heads at the moment,” sophomore Tiana Myers said. “It’s just like, okay, we made it to the playoffs. Now it’s just a deep breath and we can just step forward and make a run and still do things that people doubt that we can do.”
“It’s kind of a new season now,” freshman Megan Nipe said. “It doesn’t matter what our record is. We’ve made it to the tournament, so now we’re 0-0.”
While the clean slate is a welcomed feature, not all that happened to the Colonials is being forgotten. GW came into this season with an already limited roster of 11 players, then had three starters – redshirt junior Ivy Abiona, sophomore Tara Booker and freshman Danni Jackson – go down with season-ending injuries.
The remaining Colonials, all of who are freshmen or sophomores, also struggled to stay healthy themselves. They picked up nagging injuries here and there on their way to losing as many as 14 times in 15 games, an upset of Rutgers coming as the only triumph during an extended midseason funk.
These experiences have toughened the Colonials, head coach Mike Bozeman said, noting that there is nothing that could happen to them that they have not already handled. Even the tournament format, which requires teams to play in consecutive days as they advance, will not be foreign to GW, which had to play games Friday and Saturday this past weekend as part of making up a previously snowed-out home game.
“Everything that’s happened to us, we’re trying to take and use as a lesson,” Bozeman said. “As opposed to sitting back and complaining about what we had to do – play two games in a row – let’s just use that as a trial basis for the tournament. That’s gonna help us in the long run.”
And the Colonials are certainly not forgetting their first meeting with the Dukes, a two-point road loss in which GW was bested in the final minute after rallying back from down eight with four minutes to play.
“We have no doubt in our mind that we can beat them,” said Nipe, who scored 16 points in the previous meeting. “Our game plan was there. There’s a couple things we’ve cleaned up since then, so we’re extremely confident. We couldn’t have gotten a better draw.”
Though many current players were not part of the team at the time, GW knows the perils of the opening round all too well. The Colonials were the A-10’s fifth seed a year ago, but were knocked off by No. 12 seed Rhode Island in their first game of the tournament.
If that kind of upset could happen last year, Bozeman said, it could certainly happen again.
“There’s no pressure on us,” Myers said. “It’s more pressure on Duquesne and we’re more so the ‘underdogs.’ It’s a good position to be in. We just have to keep fighting.”
And when the ball goes in the air for the opening tip Friday at 8 p.m., they will get that chance – to keep fighting, to keep playing, to make that 21 at the end of their record meaningless.
“What I’m telling the team is, if we play up to our potential and shock the world and win this tournament, everything we’ve gone through – all 21 losses – are now wiped out over a four-game stretch,” Bozeman said. “So now, win four. Why not us?”