SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women not only got an invitation to the WNIT, but they also get to host a first-round game.
“We are excited for the chance to continue playing,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts. “The Pac-12 season was hard, but I think the fact that there are 10 of the 12 teams in postseason — seven in the NCAAs and three in the WNIT — is incredible. That speaks to every game in conference is a grind and I think 10 of our 12 teams in the postseason validates that.”
For the Utes, who started the season 10-0 before struggling to find consistency in conference play, Friday’s game against UC Davis is a chance to extend and improve the story of this season.
“We play a very good UC Davis team,” Roberts said. “They won the Big West Conference. When I was at Pacific, they were a rival, so I have a lot of experience playing them and I really like the coaching staff. I have a lot of respect for them.”
Roberts hopes to get more out of the WNIT appearance than just a few more wins.
“We certainly want to win,” Roberts said. “I think what we’ve learned this conference season that we can take into next year is every game matters. We were two wins away from making the NCAA Tournament. We can look back at a few games in conference and think, had we played more to our potential we could have won. We can carry that into postseason play and we’re certainly going to carry it into next season. We have the mentality of playing to our potential and everyone in the locker room knows exactly what that means in terms of expectations. I want us to build some momentum as we head into next season.”
The Utes lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, but they’re hoping a home-crowd environment will give them the inspiration they need to make a postseason run.
“I feel like there’s great energy with the team right now,” Roberts said. “I think they’re really excited to keep playing so we’ll have to see how it goes.”
In addition to earning another win and giving this young team more experience, Roberts said the players are excited to play one more game with the team’s lone senior, Paige Crozon.
“When we met with the team after finding out about the WNIT, the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘Paige, you deserve this,'” Roberts said. “She deserves us finishing on a high note for her. Everyone in the room was nodding. Everyone respects Paige and loves her. She’s our only senior and she deserves us coaching our best and playing our best to finish her senior season.”
Roberts expressed gratitude to the University of Utah athletic department for being willing to host the WNIT game the same weekend they’re leading Salt Lake City’s effort to host the NCAA men’s tournament at Vivint Arena.
“It should be a really good game Friday night at 6 p.m.,” Roberts said. “We’re hoping to get a really good crowd. You can get up to six people in free with the Family Pass. We need a crowd so hopefully people show up.”