Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ahead of first home playoff game in 22 years, Minutewomen eager to continue making history

Fifth-seeded UMass hosts 12th-seeded St. Bonaventure
Mehroz Kapadia

For the first time since 1998, the Mullins Center will play host to the opening round of the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament, as the fifth-seeded Massachusetts women’s basketball team welcomes No. 12 St. Bonaventure (7-22, 4-12 A-10) on Tuesday.

A win sends UMass (19-10, 9-7 A-10) to Dayton for the conference quarterfinals. A loss will end the Minutewomen’s best season in years, which has seen the team earn its highest win-total in 22 years, including a program record 11-game win streak.

The stakes, like any elimination game, are very high.

“Playoff games are life or death,” senior Vashnie Perry said. “Either you’re done or you’re going to keep going, continuing your legacy or ending it how it is. Every game is more serious than just playing in conference.”

Despite the high stakes, UMass enters the contest with plenty of confidence. There is no secret recipe for success and if the Minutewomen are going to come out on top Tuesday night, the players and coaching staff say they need to do what they have been all season, controlling what they can control.

If so, they believe, the results will take care of themselves.

“Our coaches tell us to just win the day; take it one day at a time,” Perry said. “We can’t look too much to tomorrow. Take this day, accept it, win it, and be done.”

Head coach Tory Verdi says there’s no way to prepare his team for the pressure that comes with an elimination game, but that the important games the Minutewomen have won and lost this year have helped them prepare for the moment to come.

“I think we’ve faced pressure before, so we’re prepared,” Verdi said. “We’ve played enough games at this point, 29 to be exact, and it’s just another game. We’re not putting any pressure on ourselves. We compete, we do the best that we can, and whatever happens, happens.”

One of the character-building games Verdi may be referring came in Saturday’s win over Rhode Island, the last regular season game for Perry and fellow senior Hailey Leidel.

Leidel and Perry came out a bit jumpy out of the gate, which Leidel says was due to the emotional pregame ceremony. But Perry and Leidel’s underclassman teammates were there to carry the torch.

Players like Bre Hampton-Bey and Destiney Philoxy are appreciative of the strides the program has taken thanks to Leidel and Perry and are dedicating the final stretch of this year to them.

“The respect we have for them, and the things that they’ve done,” Hampton-Bey said. “We want to give them the happy going away because we want them to remember that day.”

On the court, UMass and St. Bonaventure are already pretty familiar with each other. In both of their second conference games of the year back in January, the Minutewomen downed the Bonnies 62-52 in upstate New York. Since then, both teams have gone in different directions. UMass has had its share of ups and downs with more ups than downs, while St. Bonaventure has been in a bit of a tailspin.

This, combined with the records, may seemingly indicate a UMass win on Tuesday night, but as Verdi has said all throughout the season, any team is capable of beating any other team on any given night. The Minutewomen’s 73-56 loss to 13th-place George Mason on Feb. 5 is evidence of that.

UMass is expecting the Bonnies to come out firing.

“I expect them to throw their best shots. I don’t expect any less of them,” Perry said. “I don’t think they’re going to come in thinking, ‘oh we’re just going to walk all over them’, so they’ll have to match our energy as well.”

The Bonnies and the Minutewomen are set to tipoff at 7:00 p.m.

Tim Sorota can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @TimSorota.


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