Photos: Lady Mavericks triumph over University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans 65-58

Sophomore guard Katie Mayhue, center, cheers after the team scores during the game against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Jan. 4 at College Park Center. UTA won the game 65-58.

At 4:39 p.m. Thursday, the UTA women’s basketball season officially came to an end.

The Lady Mavericks put up a record of 21-11, 14-4 in league play, which saw them in contention for postseason play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the second year in a row.

UTA was previously eliminated from the Sun Belt Women’s Basketball Championships at the hands of the University of South Alabama on Wednesday, and the last hope of a prolonged season was through the WNIT.

The WNIT, however, announced the cancellation of the tournament amid public health concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. This follows the footsteps of the NCAA, which canceled the 2020 March Madness tournament on Thursday.

Although the 2019-20 season ended in an unorthodox way, it doesn’t mean this is how the team and its season should be remembered.

Head coach Krista Gerlich and her coaching staff has the team in an upward trajectory over the past four years, reaching 20 wins in three of those years, and 18 wins in the other season.

Over the past two years, UTA has become a consistent competitor for the conference crown and has arguably been among the top three teams in the Sun Belt Conference in that time span.

Gerlich has instilled this team with a defensive prowess like few other teams in the conference, all while still honing their craft in offense. On their day, the Lady Mavericks are a joy to watch, putting up standout numbers on both offense and defense.

In a season likely to be defined by progress, UTA did just that. Coming off a historic season in 2018-19, it was always going to be difficult to replicate it. That season, the Lady Mavericks won a regular season co-conference championship, and progressed in the postseason WNIT for the first time ever.

While those stats may not show up in any book this year, much of the progress seems to be intangible on and off the court — the players brought in the feeling of victory and the hardware to show for it, and UTA now knows what it needs to do to reach the next step. Sometimes to move forward, it’s necessary to take a step back. That definitely applies here for UTA, and that’s OK.

UTA still has a young core in this team with sophomores like Terryn Milton, Katie Ferrell and Claire Chastain, all of whom were heavy contributors this season. Sophomore guard Katie Mayhue was arguably UTA’s best option off the bench, scoring in decisive moments, while sophomore center Misty Dossey stepped up big in the post to give UTA another option near the paint.

Senior guard Aysia Evans was also a lynchpin in the team, going a bit under the radar in stats but being an integral piece that held together the balance. Her workmanlike style on the court served the rest of the team well, and she was a leader through her actions all year long.

There’s no doubt, however, that senior forward Marie Benson was the best player for UTA this season. She came into her own for the Lady Mavs and bullied her way to the top of the scoring charts all season long, with few being able to stop her powerhouse offense.

There’s potential in this team, and with the leadership and identity established under Gerlich, expect to see this team grow even bigger in the years to come and defy expectations.

@_julio_vega

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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