The Emory women’s basketball team is heading into the NCAA Tournament on fire and beyond well-prepared this weekend. The other three teams participating in the tournament will be the Ferrum College (Va.) Panthers (24-4), the Huntingdon College (Ala.) Hawks (18-9) and the Whitworth University (Wash.) Pirates (21-6).

The past season has been an incredible one for the girls, evident through their 22-3 record. The Eagles’ success rate illustrates their consistently strong defensive and offensive play as well as their persistently tenacious teamwork.

From the very beginning of the season, the freshmen came in and impressed all of the upperclassmen, while the upperclassmen simultaneously worked to improve their fundamental skills on the court and beat personal and past records on what seemed like a weekly basis.

The team was strong across all elements of the game. A majority of the victories that stood out represented determination to finish strong and to give 100 percent effort at all times of play.

“Excited does not even begin to describe our team’s feelings right now,” senior forward Misha Jackson said. “We made a list of goals before the season. The first was to win the UAA and the second was to make it to the NCAA tournament. It feels great to have been able to check them both off.”

All 14 players contributed to the women’s entry ticket to participation in the tournament. A number of star players shone through by the end of the season, both new and old. Freshman guards Ilene Tsao and Khadijah Sayyid stood up to the challenge and brought the Eagles a myriad of defensive plays and point contributions.

Representing the sophomore class has been center O’dez Oraedu, consistently giving her all on the court, making assists and rebounds and contributing buckets to Emory’s high scores.

Junior guard Hannah Lilly and point guard Savannah Morgan racked up points and continuously beat previous records and set hard-to-reach new ones. Morgan was just named Emory’s athlete of the week, credited for “enabling the Eagles to capture their first-ever UAA title in school history.”

The seniors get to finish strong with the excitement of the upcoming tournament. Jackson and senior center Danielle Landry were constantly double-digit scorers in all of the games, running up and down the court without delay and picking up the ball to assist in Emory’s next big move.

“We have been working for this everyday since August, and all of our hard work is paying off. I think our biggest strengths are our defense and our speed,” Landry said. “We force so many turnovers every game, and one of our girls finished with the most steals in the UAA this year. We are having an unbelievable season, and it would be great to get the same support we did last weekend.”

The women are looking forward to starting the NCAAs off on their home court this Friday. Game one will begin at 4:00 p.m., setting Huntingdon against Ferrum. At 6:30 p.m., Emory will be coming out against Whitworth. The second round of the tournament will be held on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Jackson, along with the rest of the team, is excited for the opportunity.

“Right now, we are going to feed off of our accomplishments thus far and take our energy into the NCAA tournament,” she said. “We are going to continue to play our game and continue to get better.”

– By Nicola Braginsky