The women’s basketball team’s 16-12 record doesn’t tell the whole story of the Wolverines’ season.
Utah Valley’s campaign can be broken in four phases. Eight straight wins started the year out, and then the women had a 1-3 stretch right before the winter break when it looked like team couldn’t beat any decent competition.
But four wins during the holiday season – against tough teams like Gonzaga, Nevada and Portland State – showed that the McKay Center was Utah Valley’s fortress.
Losing nine of 12 – all away from the Wolverines’ home court – showed that the team needs to do a lot to show that it’s ready to compete in Division I play.
The woeful ending, though, can prove to be a boon for next year. Losing the way the Wolverines did couldn’t have left a good taste in the mouths of the star trio of Robyn Fairbanks, Sandy Marvin and Julie McMurray. And all three will be back together.
Marvin and McMurray gave Fairbanks the needed help that has been lacking in years past.
What is left needing are some athletes to compete with quicker women’s teams, the types of teams that coach Cathy Nixon said that Utah Valley had trouble with all year.
Redshirt sophomore guard Kayla Burningham is one who could emerge to supply the needed speed. Nixon admitted that Burningham is one of the quickest players on the team.
Besides speed, the Wolverines need some physical toughness as well. Unless some recruit can immediately step up, that type of player won’t likely emerge quickly.
Maybe one solution is to see if Sarah Cummard and Lacey Plaisted are available. For those who don’t know what these women bring to the table, just do an Internet search on the BYU-UNLV Mountain West championship game.
To be honest, despite how the women ended their season, they still likely played better then expected. 12 and 0 at home is nothing to sneeze about. They gave a good show and had some memorable games.
The Seton Hall win in November was the icing on the cake. Fairbanks dominated in scoring 39 points as Utah Valley came back from a 12-point deficit at halftime to eke out a five-point overtime win.
Games like that are ones that the women need to remember for next year. If they burn into their minds what they can accomplish in difficult circumstances, coming back shouldn’t be just an option. It should be expected.
In the end, look for Nixon to put together a team that is a bit tougher and a tad more athletic to get some wins that eluded the Wolverines this year.
Because if they don’t, it may take a few more years to get back to where they are now.