It was not a season to remember for the Arizona women’s basketball team. A year that began with high rankings and the dream of a second straight Pac-10 Championship began to fade as injuries and key losses piled up. It was as if there was always one wheel on the pavement but one on the shoulder so the car was never able to reach maximum speed.
Several key losses apparently have cost the Cats a chance at an NCAA bid. An early dousing at Ohio State was forgivable because of Arizona’s young backcourt. Then came another losing effort at Georgia and questions began to arise, but again, the Pac-10 season was still around the corner. However, it was injuries that derailed the train. First, Danielle Adefeso sat for a good share of the non-conference schedule with a bad shoulder. She returned late and played the best basketball of her career. As the Pac10 season began at Washington, the Huskies sent two of Arizona’s starters to the bench. Jessica Arnold suffered a serious shoulder injury and Polkey hurt her knee, and that’s when reality began to set in. Shannon Hobson also missed significant time and Natalie Jones was never completely healthy.
Arizona’s nation-leading home court winning streak was snapped by Stanford. The Wildcats had already lost big at ASU and then Maryland got by Joan Bonvicini’s team at home. Two losses at home ?- impossible! Now, all of the sudden the season was in peril. The truth of the matter is, that Arizona hadn’t really beaten anyone and chances to do so were running out. The Wildcats managed to sweep UCLA, two solid wins, but couldn’t get it done when it mattered most ?- on Senior Day in Tucson. If Arizona beats Washington they are a third seed in the Pac-10 Tournament and virtually assure themselves of an NCAA bid. Everything looked fine. At the 9:00 mark of the second half, the home team led by 15 points. But when the final buzzer sounded it was Washington that was celebrating and the air had come out of the Arizona balloon.
However, the Pac-10 Tournament held one more smidgeon of hope. A win over USC and Arizona could still reach its season-long goal, a trip to the Big Dance. But it didn’t happen and now everyone can just wonder how a promising season could derail so quickly.
The bottom line is that there is nobody to blame. Injuries removed the heart of the team and when the confidence dropped it wasn’t easily replaced. It just wasn’t Arizona’s year. Yes, they are a bubble-team for the tournament but frankly, the Wildcats don’t show up in anyone’s NCAA forecast bracket and the National Invitational Tournament seems like a no-win situation for anyone. So, what about next year?
Arizona should be solid next season. Their backcourt will be athletic with Natalie Jones, Jessica Arnold and Ashley Whisonant leading the way. Polkey should be healthy and there may be help on the way in the low block. The question remains: “Who will be the team’s leader?” That question won’t be answered until November when the carousel starts turning again.
Congratulations to the team and coaching staff for a 19-win season in the midst of injuries and frustration. 19-11 is a record that many teams would die for. Next season, it will be over 20.
See you on the radio!
Note: One more edition of the Joan Bonvicini Coaches Show remains! Please join us from 6-7 p.m. Monday, March 14, at the Stadium Sports Grill! And, all postseason games can be heard live on AM 1330 KJLL the Jolt!