By Natalie Fiorilli | The Duquesne Duke
Less than a week away from the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the Duquesne women’s basketball team is still the squad to beat in the conference.
“Being in first place places the target on your back and we know that we are going to get the best challenger from each opponent that we face,” head coach Dan Burt said.
After coming out victorious in Wednesday night’s matchup with La Salle, the Dukes kept their lead in the A-10 with a conference record of 13-2 and an overall record of 25-3. Tied for second, and trailing behind Duquesne, are St. Bonaventure and George Washington, both sitting at 11-3 in the conference.
With the win over the Explorers, the Dukes now control their own destiny, meaning that if they win Sunday against the Bonnies, they will automatically hold the first overall seed in next week’s conference tournament.
With that in mind, the Red & Blue are keeping their focus on the remainder of the season, rather than on the upcoming tournament in Richmond, according to senior point guard April Robinson.
“[We are] taking it one day at a time,” Robinson said before the La Salle matchup. “We have to take care of business with these next two games.”
As stated, this weekend will close out the regular season, and most importantly will determine how the teams are seeded in the tournament. George Washington will need a Duquesne loss and a win over a less challenging opponent in George Mason, who currently stands at 3-11 in the conference.
The tournament could be one of the final opportunities for the winningest senior class in program history to step on the court for Duquesne. The Dukes win over La Salle gives this senior class 91 total. The next closest win total is 88, which was accomplished in both 2013 and 2014.
For seniors like Robinson, Emilie Gronas and Deva’Nyar Workman, it will be crucial to make a statement early on in the tournament.
“I’ll give it my all, because there will be no more chances,” Robinson said. “I don’t want to have any regrets. Playing with heart is what will carry us through.”
Under Burt, the Dukes have made it as far as the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament, as well as the third round of the WNIT, both of which occurred last season. In its third season with Burt, Duquesne should be that much closer to its first ever NCAA Tournament bid.
Last season, the A-10 sent its top-two seeded teams, Dayton and George Washington, to the big dance. Being at the top of the A-10, the Dukes should expect to receive a bye in the first round, and from there it will face the winner of one of the first round games, making it a tad easier to be one of this year’s bids.
The A-10 Tournament will begin March 2, with the championship game set for March 6.