By Natalie Fiorilli | The Duquesne Duke
The 2015-16 season was a year of firsts for the Duquesne women’s basketball team.
The Dukes made history this year by earning the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. And Duquesne came to win, topping Seton Hall by a 21-point margin in its debut first-round game last Saturday.
For some, it was the first year wearing a Duquesne jersey, as the team added seven freshmen to the roster. For others, it was a season taking on new leadership roles, especially in seniors April Robinson, Deva’Nyar Workman and Emilie Gronas.
“I think we kind of set the bar really high for Duquesne women’s basketball,” Robinson said in a press conference held Monday night after Duquesne’s 97-51 loss to the top-seeded University of Connecticut.
Ultimately, it came down to facing the best team in the country. Although the Red & Blue put up a good fight in the first quarter, UConn exhausted the Dukes’ offensive effort, leaving Duquesne trailing in double-digits for the majority of the night.
“[UConn is] just a great team,” Workman said. “We got to play the number one team in the country, and I think we all balled out as best as we could. We fought to the end.”
Considering the performance Duquesne had against Seton Hall, the NCAA Selection Committee should be more open to giving the Dukes a post-season berth in seasons to come. The group’s ability against a Big East team in Seton Hall proved its potential in games outside of Atlantic 10 Conference play.
Duquesne even put up a hard-fought battle against UConn for nearly 15 minutes of the game, showing that they are a respectable team. Halfway through the first quarter the Dukes managed an 8-0 run that would give the Red & Blue a one-point advantage over the Huskies.
“I’m incredibly proud of my team,” head coach Dan Burt said Monday night. “What they showed tonight, I thought was composure and confidence. They gave everything that they had on that floor for forty minutes.”
Since Burt was named head coach three seasons ago, the Dukes have extended the program’s success each year, with the latest season being the winningest in program history. Duquesne’s loss to UConn brought the team’s overall record to 28-6, an improvement from 23-11 in 2014-15.
This season the Dukes averaged 71.8 points per game, with Robinson, Workman and Gronas accounting for a combined average of 35 of those points. Though Duquesne will lose three starters in its seniors, it will only give an opportunity for underclassmen players to step up.
For a team with freshmen like forward Kadri-Ann Lass and guard Chassidy Omogrosso, who combined for 27 points in the first-round victory over the Pirates, the Dukes should anticipate even more progress next season.
“Our graduate assistant Olivia Bresnahan said in the locker room we set the bar so high that it’s not about getting to the tournament it’s about getting to the next round and the next round and making Duquesne basketball as good as it can be,” Robinson said Monday night. “Overall it was a great experience and hopefully our girls can experience it again.”