March 12, 2012
After finished with a 22-10 overall mark and 9-7 in conference play, the Virginia women were denied a berth into the NCAA Tournament Monday night. Just hours later, they learned their season would still continue after earning an at-large berth into the WNIT bracket.
"It was definitely disappointing," said Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle. "You're sitting in there and your name's not called and you feel like you've done enough work and had a good resume or body of work. More so than anything as a coaching staff you feel bad for the kids that they didn't get the opportunity. "
"I think a lot of us were shocked," said senior Chelsea Shine. "But the reality is that we get to play more basketball, we're lucky enough to make the NIT Tournament so we were shocked and upset for a little bit but it was kind of a quick turnaround in realizing that there's more games to be played. So now it's kind of excitement and getting to be a part of the postseason play."
The Cavaliers (22-10) will meet Howard University (24-8) on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena. The Bison earned an automatic bid by finishing as runner-up in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Howard won 11 of their last 12 games after falling in the league title game.
Virginia finished fifth in the ACC and watched all four teams above them (Duke, Miami, Maryland, and Georgia Tech) earn NCAA Tournament bids. A pair of conference teams will join them in the WNIT as both Wake Forest and N.C. State are in Virginia's bracket.
In-state foes Richmond and James Madison are also potential opponents for the Cavaliers. With a win Thursday, UVa would meet the winner of the Spiders' match-up with Miami of Ohio.
The WNIT announced that 2012, their 15th season, has one of the most competitive fields in tournament history with 36 teams boasting 20 or more wins. That includes Virginia and their first round opponent.
"There's a lot of great teams out there in women's basketball, a lot more parity," said Boyle. "The WNIT is filled with really good teams and I think that's part of what we have to remember and continuously tell our team is that it's a tournament that's second to the NCAA but in terms of the talent that's in it, it's very viable."
"The thing about the NIT Tournament," added Shine. "They're really good teams as well, you know. Winning a NIT championship is difficult too and it's a huge accomplishment so you do just need to take it one game at a time"
The Cavaliers have advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals three times, in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
Second-round games begin March 17-19 and the third round runs March 21-23. The WNIT Quarterfinals are March 24-26 and Semifinals are March 28-29. The championship game will be played on Saturday, March 31. All games are hosted by participating schools.