Joe Dodson, Staff Writer
Nile McNair, Contributing Writer
After winning its first-ever Atlantic 10 title, VCU women’s basketball has punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.
“I’ve been a coach for 20 years, and this is my first NCAA tournament,” coach Beth O’Boyle said. “I think the best part of it was the smiles and hugs with my players after the game.”
VCU defeated UMass 81-69 on Sunday in the conference title game.
After being picked first in the A-10 preseason poll, the Rams struggled to start the season, going 2-5 in their nonconference schedule.
“We came out of the nonconference probably not where we thought we would be,” O’Boyle said. “But again, it was the response to it.”
The team found their footing and began to turn the season around by winning four straight games to start conference play, including a 73-49 away win over crosstown rival Richmond.
Despite the postponing of three conference games due to COVID-19, VCU finished with a 10-5 record in conference games. The Rams had multiple winning streaks of at least three games.
VCU won three straight games en route to the title game as the fifth seed in the tournament. One of those wins was a 56-50 upset victory against top-seeded Dayton.
“Even before the season started, we had a feeling that we were going to be great, and I think we proved everyone wrong and did what we had to do,” senior guard Tera Reed said.
Senior guard Taya Robinson earned her first A-10 First Team selection after averaging a career-high and team-high 14.7 points and 6 rebounds through the season. Robinson also earned her third consecutive All-Defensive Team honor. The Richmond native was named A-10’s Most Outstanding Player after dropping in 19 points in the title game.
Freshman guard Sarah Te-Biasu earned All-Rookie team honors after averaging 10.9 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Coming out of the regular season, VCU still had its ultimate goal in sight. After losing to Fordham and Dayton in the last two A-10 championship games, VCU was eager to win its first conference title.
“It’s been our goal every single year to win the championship, and we’ve been in the game, so I think the experience really helped us,” Reed said.
VCU was the beneficiary of having the A-10 tournament at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, as the Rams went 9-2 at home this season.
Winning the conference championship adds to the impact the senior class has had on the program the last four years. The senior class consists of guards Robinson, Reed and Olga Petrova, forward Sydnei Archie and center Sofya Pashigoreva.
“Starting as a freshman it was tough, we won seven games, but we talked to each other and knew that the next year it wouldn’t be like that,” Robinson said.
Since that seven-win season, women’s basketball had two consecutive seasons with over 20 wins.
It was announced on Monday that No. 13 VCU will be playing No. 4 in their opening game of the NCAA tournament. The tournament starts March 21, with all games taking place in San Antonio, Texas.
However, the quick turnaround between the A-10 and NCAA tournament games doesn’t seem to worry the VCU players.
“Right now we’re on top of the world,” Reed said. “We’re living in this moment and enjoying this moment right now, but we don’t have any doubts that we can focus on advancing in the tournament.”
The Rams will play Indiana on Monday at 2 p.m. at the UTSA Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be televised on ESPNU.