Lady Polar Bears before the start of their Sweet Sixteen match against the second-ranked Transylvania University on March 10. (Northern Review photo/Nick Williams)

Our 2022-23 Women’s Basketball season came to a somber end Friday, March 10th, after No. 16 ranked ONU lost 67-43 to No.2 ranked Transylvania University at the Beck Center in Lexington, KY. Although the team hoped to advance their season into the Elite Eight, the girls are just getting started. The post-game interview, projections for next year, and growing involvement from the student body all bode well for an even more exciting season come March Madness 2024.

Next season, Coach Huelsman is set to begin his fourth season as head coach. In his beginning tenure as head coach in 2020, the season ended with a win percentage of .467 overall. In his second season, the team improved markedly to a .680 win percentage overall, this past season, the team ended with a .833 overall win percentage. The team has also steadily increased how deep they go into the playoffs. In the 20-21 season, they were 8th in the OAC; in 21-22, the team placed 5th in the OAC, and this past season, the Polar Bears ended in the Sweet 16 for just the fourth time in school history. After the game, the coach said it best: “We accomplished so much for our campus community this year. The team put us back on the map at a national level in Division III. We had an impact on this campus that would not have happened without our tournament run.”

Coach Huelsman’s notion that the campus has felt the impact of this team’s growing strength also bears true in the stats. Average home attendance has increased from 14 attendees in 20-21 to 400 in 22-23. At this game, a sizable group of students followed the team, approx. 400 miles round-trip from Ada to Lexington to show the team that their accomplishments and hard work are not going unnoticed. This support did not go unnoticed by the team either, with Brynn Serbin stating that “students coming to our games, that was incredible, [it] kept us going, kept the fire going, and we’re never going to give up.” Barring any surprises, this team will likely return with the same roster next season. No need to onboard unfamiliar new players or fill the holes left by developed veterans. The team can focus on improving their weaknesses and fortifying their strengths alongside the same teammates and coaches that helped them advance so far in this past season.

The final game left much to be desired. Still, those desires are well within reach if the team can continue its steady march toward further success at this same cadence during next year’s season. Rome was not built in one day, nor was it built in three years. This setback holds lessons to be learned for the team, but let this serve as a reminder of how far they have come. To the team: rest, recuperate, and come back with a vengeance. To the students: stock up on face paint and foam fingers because next season will be even better than the last.

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