Elite Eight highlight of 2008 for Lady Blues

Dave Scott

The Lady Blues’ hopes for a national title ended last year in double overtime with a loss to South Dakota in Kearney, Neb. Washburn ended the 2007-’08 season with a record of 26-7 and actually jumped from No. 24 up to No. 5 with the loss to South Dakota, but it was a season that had all the promise of a repeat of the Lady Blues’ 2005 national championship victory.

The team started out 2007 as No. 6 in the country in the WBCA/ESPN Division II polls and moved as high as No. 3 in the polls after rolling through their first five opponents. The team held that spot until they were handed their first loss of the season at the hands of Drury.

The Blues then won five consecutive games, including a trouncing of Central Missouri that marked the 1,000th game in program history. The streak didn’t stay alive though because the Lady Blues dropped a close game to Northwest Missouri in Maryville, Mo.

The Blues dropped two more losses in January, falling to Southwest Baptist and Missouri Southern before setting off on an eight-game win streak that included a rematch with Northwest Missouri, a victory that marked another milestone in the program’s history as the team celebrated their seventh straight 20-win season. The Blues only lost two games from that point on, an impressive run that included a win against long-standing rival Emporia State to move into the Elite Eight.

Head coach Ron McHenry credited two of his seniors’ leadership skills for the team’s success.

“We were lead well,” said McHenry. “We had two really good players in Amanda Holmes and Corkey Stiger, we had some role players that played exceptionally well, but our best basketball was late in the year when it counted. We had some weeks where we didn’t play very well and our seniors got us going did a nice job of finishing the season.”

Senior Brette Ulsaker looks to the start of the 2008 campaign for exacting vengeance on the opponents who beat the Blues early in the 2007 season.

“I really want to beat Emporia and Northwest,” said Ulsaker. “They beat us early in the season and it left a sour taste in our mouths early.”

Though the 2007 season was a successful season, 2008 holds just as much promise for a return to the tournament.

“I think here you’re always trying to win at the highest level and this team knows that, and they expect to be there, but there no givens in this world but this team has a chance,” McHenry said. “They have all the ingredients they just have to put it together and we have enough talent in that locker room to do it.”