by JD Leader
As the University of Tampa women’s basketball team continues to dominate the competition, they are off to one of their best seasons setting a school record with a 15 game winning streak.
“A big moment that stood out and changed the momentum of our season was the first time we played Eckerd College this year. It was an away game and we were down by 18 in the second half and pulled off a comeback from behind victory,” said junior guard, Julia Ingram. “After that game I think we all realized that we have a special team who will not give up even when the odds are stacked against us.”
Six games stand in between now and the start of the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) play.
“The team has grown together as a unit and has a chance to have a special year,” said head coach Thomas Jessee. “Our goal is always to win the SSC Conference and that is still our focus. Then we will turn our attention to the SCC tournament.”
Down to the final stretch of the regular season it is vital for the team to continue practicing the fundamentals that got them into this position in the first place. It is almost certain they will lock up the number one seed in the SSC Conference with their 17-3 record, while Florida Southern trails behind them with a 14-8 record.
With four home games remaining the women are hoping to bring all the support from their peers that they can.
Aubrey Clapsaddle, freshman guard, explained that the team will need to “lay out all we have on the floor everyday and everything will play out the way it should from there.” However, it isn’t all about winning.
“It is about the relationships we have built…They are my family, and I would do anything for them, and with that said, I am so proud of my family and everything we have accomplished,” Clapsaddle said.
Jessee said, “It’s been rewarding as a coach to watch this group become a team. The group’s attitude has been great and a lot of fun to be around.”
On successful teams, every player has a certain role and job they must fulfill. “I contribute my leadership skills as I am one of the older players on the team,” Ingram said. “I can be a calming presence in the games when the team gets flustered. I also bring my outside shooting to the team to complement the driving skills of Melijiah and Aliyah and the inside post skills of Dori and Shay.”
Being a team player is important, especially when you value winning and making your teammates better more than anything else.
While riding a 15 game winning streak it is hard not get on your high horse. But Jessee makes sure his girls stay grounded.
“We have a saying each Wednesday and Saturday to just have a 1 and 0 day,” Jessee said. With the mindset of restarting after every victory the pressure and expectations are evident.
Every game the women go from being, “laidback and goofy. We joke around and listen to music [in the locker room] to keep things light so that we are all feeling good, come game time,” until, “in the immediate time before the game, our locker room is serious and laser focused on what we need to do to win that night,” Ingram said.
The next few weeks are crucial for the girls as they finish up the regular season and head into conference tournaments.
JD Leader can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org