Women’s hoops aiming for NCAA tourney berth

Claire Murray | Photo Editor – Senior point guard April Robinson prepares to receive an inbounded ball during a practice drill. The club opens up their season this Friday.

By Sam Noel | The Duquesne Duke

Heading into 2015-16, the Duquesne women’s basketball team has high hopes as they once again aim to win the Atlantic 10 conference and qualify for the NCAA tournament.

After posting a 23-11 overall record last season, the Dukes just missed out on making the big postseason tournament and had to settle for the WNIT, where they were eliminated by West Virginia in the second round.

While it was a disappointing end to the season, the Dukes have to be confident in their chances this time around as they’re coming off one of the more successful seasons in recent history. They finished conference play with an admirable 12-4 record; the most conference wins in Duquesne women’s basketball history.

And with that great season in the books, the A-10 head coaches predict the Dukes to finish third in the conference, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. This projection assumes that the Dukes will have a target on their backs, as they are one of the toughest teams in the conference.

Senior guard April Robinson, last season’s leader in points, gave her thoughts on this preseason projection.

“Honestly, we have not put much thought into that just because they are preseason predictions,” Robinson said. “We [have] been focusing on ourselves and will take it one game at a time. Preseason predictions do not mean anything. It’s what happens at the end that truly matters.”

Robinson was arguably the team’s best player during the 2014-15 season. She was recognized by the NCAA as a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman award – a prize given to the top point guard in women’s college basketball.

“My goal, along with the team, is, obviously, to win the Atlantic 10 conference and to make school history by reaching the NCAA tournament,” she said.

When asked if she felt the team was snubbed last season for the tournament, Robinson told The Duke that they were, in a way. However, the team will use it to work harder this season.

“It is what it is,” Robinson said. “We were still fortunate enough to be able to play in a postseason, whereas a lot of teams didn’t. More importantly, it makes us work harder to achieve our goal this year.”

Coach Dan Burt is heading into his third year on the job. His 43-24 record at the helm has prompted the school to give him a contract extension this offseason as they hope Burt will continue to lead the team to winning records, and maybe an NCAA postseason berth. He led the team to back-to-back postseason appearances in the WNIT and as an assistant and head coach, he has also contributed to seven straight seasons with 20 or more wins for the Dukes.

Duquesne starts the season with a trip to Jersey City to take on St. Peter’s University Nov. 13. They then face a tough test against Princeton, who just missed out on the preseason national top 25 rankings. Last season, Princeton defeated Duquesne 79-62 in the Dukes’ opening game. This will certainly be a vengeful match as they hope to pull off the massive upset against the Tigers.

Conference play for the Dukes will begin Jan. 3 at home against Dayton University, who finished second in the A-10 a season ago.

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