The Finneran Finale: Wildcats Advance to Sweet 16


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

The Wildcats had a commanding 76-59 win over Cleveland State on Saturday.

Brooke Ackerman, Co-Sports Editor

Seventy-six seems to be a lucky number for Villanova women’s basketball. 

That number is exactly how many points the Wildcats put up in both their first and second round wins of the NCAA Division 1 Tournament. 

The No. 4 Wildcats had the privilege to host the first two rounds of March Madness this year and took on No. 13 Cleveland State in round one, winning, 76-59, and No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast in the second round, posting a 76-57 triumph. 

Against CSU on Saturday, March 18, senior guard Maddy Siegrist had her usual standout performance, putting up 35 points, which contributed to her season total of 1050. 

This made her the fifth player in women’s Division I basketball history to score 1000 points in a single season. 

But, it wasn’t just Siegrist that had a noteworthy performance in the ‘Cats win over CSU. 

Sophomore guard Lucy Olsen also had added nine points, while junior guard Bella Runyan and sophomore guard Kaitlyn Orihel came off the bench to combine for 22 points in the game. 

“We certainly set the tone from the beginning and did everything necessary to advance to the next round on our home court,” head coach Denise Dillon said.

In the final quarter, the Vikings put up a valiant effort, scoring 25 points, but Villanova continued to maintain its dominating lead. 

It was also the support from a high-energy Finneran Pavilion that helped the ‘Cats stay motivated. 

“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” Runyan said. 

Siegrist agreed with Runyan, noting how “huge” the fan support was. 

“Last year we were just happy to be there, but, to play at home, it’s just something, you know?” Siegrist said. “We cherish that, and now we get to play at home again.” 

With two days of practice in between rounds, the Wildcats took the momentum from their first tournament win into the round of 32, as they geared up to take on FGCU in a packed Finneran Pavilion on Monday, March 20. 

In Villanova’s win over the Eagles, it was a dual effort from Siegrist and Olsen that had the fans on their feet. 

Siegrist dropped 31 points to break the NCAA DI record for most consecutive 20 point games, while Olsen scored a career-high 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists. 

With those numbers, the First and Second Team All Big-East duo combined for 54 of Villanova’s overall points on the night.

“I think the greatest thing about this team has been, you know, it’s not just about Maddy…[everyone] was contributing and making shots,” Dillon said.

The Wildcats maintained their lead throughout the game, which allowed Dillon to sub out her starters early, resulting in a standing ovation for Siegrist in what would be her final game at the Finn. 

A full substitute lineup then took the court with just over a minute remaining, allowing the entire team to relish in their final home game of the season. 

“You’re not passing that opportunity up,” Dillon said. “You have to enjoy those moments, or you’re gonna lose the innocence of the game. We’re gonna soak it up as much as [we] can, and then re-group.” 

With the first and second round wins behind them, the pressure is on for the Wildcats as they say goodbye to their home court for the remainder of their 2022-23 season.

“Villanova’s a Final Four level team,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “To me, that’s how good they are.”

With their eyes set on the Final Four, the Wildcats will head to Greenville, South Carolina to go dancing in their first Sweet Sixteen in 19 years.