Three NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the Elite Eight, a Big East Championship, and the second most successful season in Villanova history are just some of the memorable accomplishments left behind by three senior members of the women’s basketball team who ended their Wildcat careers on Monday in a 73-49 loss to Tennessee in the Mideast Regional final of the NCAA tournament.
Although there were tears in the press conference after Tennessee ended their hopes of making it to the Final Four, the trio of Katie Davis, Trish Juhline and Nicole Druckenmiller have the distinction of being not only one of the best ever women’s teams, but also one of the best teams in any sport in Villanova history.
The Wildcats became media darlings after breaking mighty Connecticut’s streak of 70 straight wins in the Big East Championship en route to making their third straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The ‘Cats made history once again when they advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the program’s history, and gave No. 1 seed Tennessee a battle throughout the entire first half before succumbing to the Vols on their home floor in front of a mass of orange over 10,000 strong.
After the game, Villanova head coach Harry Perretta, who in his 25 years at the helm has guided the ‘Cats to twelve 20+ win seasons, commented on the fine play of the three seniors throughout their careers on the Main Line.
“It’s an honor to have coached them,” Perretta said. “How a team plays sometimes and how it acts is according to how the seniors act. If they are willing to take criticism, then the rest of the players will take criticism. If the seniors are willing to act the right way and be unselfish, the rest of the players will be unselfish. Those kids were very unselfish in their nature and they’re nice people and it carried over on the rest of the team. They left a great legacy behind and I can’t say enough about them.”
Juhline, who leaves the Main Line as ‘Nova’s third all-time leading scorer as well as its career three-point field goal leader, commented after the game on what has been not only a dream season, but an amazing career.
“You can’t help but be happy with the season we’ve had,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve actually even realized yet what this team has done and I think it will take a while, but I can’t say enough about this team. Being a part of it has been an unbelieveable experience and something I’ll always remember.”
The Wildcats made headlines as a prototypical Cinderella squad, piling up improbable victories which even their own head coach usually had no explanation for.
“I thought we played the best we could,” Perretta said. “They won 28 games against a schedule that if you had asked me if they could have done that in the beginning of the year I would have said that it was impossible. What they did was a minor miracle with the ability they had.”
Above and beyond any feelings of sadness at the loss was the overriding sense of pride and accomplishment which Perretta maintains for his players after their remarkable season.
“They might be disappointed [with the loss] but it’s impossible for me to be disappointed,” he said. “If you make winning a priority, you’ll end up disappointed sometimes, but I’ve never made that a priority. I just wanted them to do the best they could and they did way above that.”