The women’s basketball team finished its regular season on a seven-game winning streak that pushed the Wildcats into a tie for first place in the Southland Conference, making the Wildcats back-to-back Southland Conference Champions.
Head coach Julie Goodenough said repeating as champions is very special.
“It’s just another special season for us, we have such a great group of young ladies,” Goodenough said. “Give our players a lot of credit for just staying locked in and just pursuing excellence over the course of the semester and throughout the course of conference play, not getting complacent, but trying to get better every day.”
ACU began its season with preseason WNIT, against the Missouri Tigers, who at the time was ranked No. 24 in the nation. The Wildcats gave the Mizzou a run for its money despite starting the season with out senior sharpshooter Alexis Mason. But poor shooting by ACU allowed Mizzou to escape with a 52-46 victory over the Wildcats.
Following the loss to Mizzou, the women hosted ACU’s first ever WNIT games, as they took on the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley . The Wildcats pulled out two victories in front of an excited home crowd that has been waiting tournament action to come to ACU for quite some time.
The Wildcats continued its toughest non-conference slate since moving to Div. 1 against top-tier talents in Texas A&M and Baylor falling in both games. The Wildcats also saw two very winnable games against the University of Texas San Antonio and the University of Missouri-Kansas City slip out of their grasp in the last moments of the game.
After the gauntlet of match ups to begin the season, the Wildcats won three of their last four to finish non-conference and took a hard-earned 6-6 record into Southland play.
Fortunately, the team picked up right where it left off last season earning three wins to start conference play, including an 83-76 victory over eventual conference c0-champion, Central Arkansas.
ACU hit a bit of a hiccup against Stephen F. Austin when the Wildcats shot just 30 percent from the field, compared to the ladyjacks 49 percent and dropped their first conference game in over a year, 70-61. But the loss lit a fire as the Wildcats responded with a six-game wining to streak to solidify themselves among the leaders of the conference until Central Arkansas would get its revenge in an 80-70 victory in Conway, Arkansas.
However ACU refused to lose back-to-back games yet again and finished the season with seven-straight wins, including road win over SFA and a season finale victory over Houston Baptist to earn a share of the regular season title.
“We went into that game (Houston Baptist) with our game plan being to win a conference championship,” Goodenough said. “We were one step away from having a conference championship again this season, but we knew that Houston Baptist was playing its final game of the season and its seniors were playing their final game ever for Houston Baptist, so we knew they would give us their A-game.”
The Wildcats rode 31 points from Mason in her final game for ACU, as the women rolled 89-60 over the Huskies to retain the title.
Three seniors in Suzzy Dimba, Lizzy Dimba and Mason were named to all-Conference teams. Suzzy earned first team, playing in all 30 games this season and averaging 13.2 points per game and 6.8 rebounds, along with contributing 91 assists, 45 blocks, and 56 steals on the season. Mason was named to the Second Team all-Southland Conference team, despite playing less minutes and in less games than last year when she won Southland Conference Player of the Year. Mason played posted a stat line of 16.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 68 assists, 35 steals and 6 blocks. Lizzy was named to the third team after returning from a season-ending injury and playing in all 30 games this season, while posting 12.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 47 assists, 40 steals, and 13 blocks.
Coach Goodenough had high praise for her seniors, including Sydney Shelstead, who just missed being named to an all-Conference team.
“We have four really special seniors on this team and I’m partial, but I think they are four of the top-10 players in the conference,” Goodenough said. “But when we are talking about all-Conference, considering 13 teams, if you get one or two players that get post-season awards, that is a pretty big deal, and for us to have three players is really special and it speaks volumes and just the respect that the other coaches have for our players.”
With Central Arkansas winning the Southland Conference tournament this past weekend, ACU is guaranteed a spot in the WNIT again this season, but the team awaits its reveal Monday night at 11 p.m.
“When we put this team together nine months ago in the summer, we talked about we want to win another conference championship and not just go to postseason play, but win a game or two, so that’s really our focus right now is to just stay in shape, trying to keep our game at a high level and whenever we find out where we are going, we are going to be really excited about whoever we are going to play against,” Goodenough said.
ACU came up just short in the first round of last year’s WNIT, falling to UTEP 66-62.