The University of South Dakota women’s basketball season came to a close on the evening of March 28 at the DakotaDome.
The team ended its season with a loss to McNeese State in the semifinals of the Women’s Basketball Invitational, falling 71-63 after blowing a 12-point lead over the Cowgirls. The loss gave the team a 19-16 overall record to end the season.
The team comes away with four postseason wins in their first year as a Division-I team and also finished third in the regular season of the Summit League. The team had previously been ranked sixth in Summit League preseason polls, but the team’s resilience throughout the season is one reason senior Alexis Yackley said they did as well as they did.
“One thing myself and Tempestt kind of hung our hats on was being tough and resilient and never being afraid to go into any game,” Yackley said. “That’s kind of what we tried to exude in practice and on the court in games to everybody. I may not be the tallest, strongest, fastest or most athletic, but I can always play the hardest. I think our team kind of exuded that.”
Four seniors, including Yackley, Sam Mehr, Pam January and Tempestt Wilson played their final game in a USD uniform. Head coach Amy Williams credited the foursome for pushing the team every day, whether it was a game day or a simple mid-week practice.
“You can’t even measure where the seniors have left this program,” Williams said. “They have completely poured their hearts and souls into what it means to be apart of Coyote women’s basketball. We try to tell our underclassmen about how appreciative they should be to this group of seniors for what they’ve gone through to pave the way for our program.”
Williams said she looks forward to the next few seasons as they continue to develop the program into something a little more each season. She hopes to set the bar and raise expectations each season as USD learns the ropes of what it means to be a D-I school.
“I hope that the first thing that happens is that the expectations are raised,” Williams said. “I would like for our program to continue to work to raise the bar. I’m hoping it will make all of our returning players hungry to continue to raise the bar and just continue that postseason trend.”
Despite the loss of pivotal seniors, several underclassmen gained valuable experience after logging major minutes throughout the season. Yackley said USD has a bright future with such experienced youth on its roster.
“We had 10 people, and played in five postseason games,” Yackley said. “A lot of the freshmen got a lot of playing time because they had to in certain cases. That can only help for the future.”
The seniors expressed gratitude to all of the Coyote fans who supported them throughout their four years of play and said though they were disappointed with the end result, they were glad to have their season end in front of the home crowd.
“We would have liked to win (against SDSU) but we’re excited we got to extend our careers for a little longer, win two road games and then get one last chance to play in front of Coyote fans and our parents. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way, but we had a great run,” Yackley said.