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January 7, 2014

U-D women’s hoops back in action following championship season

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Pictured are players from the University of Detroit Mercy women’s basketball team. Last season, the Titans won the Women’s Basketball Invitational tournament.

Last season, the University of Detroit Mercy women’s basketball team accomplished something not many other programs can lay claim to — the Titans won their last game of the season.

After earning the No. 1 seed and home court throughout, UDM proceeded to win the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) tournament. It was the first time since 1981 the Titans had won a postseason tournament, and head coach Autumn Rademacher would like for that experience to continue to pay dividends as the program moves forward.

“We won the championship right here at Calihan Hall — pretty special,” said Rademacher. “It was amazing. For our girls, I think it was fantastic for them to see teams they’d never seen before, as well as play so deep into March. So I think anything less than that from here on out will be a complete disappointment. Very special to be recognized on the national level. You’re only three in the country that won their last game,” she said, referring to the WNIT and NCAA, “so it was a special feeling — just happy the girls were able to be a part of it.”

As pleased as she may have been to come away as the WBI champs, that isn’t the end of Rademacher’s postseason ambitions. As a senior, she was a part of the only women’s basketball team in program history to make it to the NCAA tournament, and now that she is at the coaching helm, she would like for her players to have that same opportunity.

“That is our goal — get to the NCAA tournament,” she said. “I talk about it for them. I said, ‘Listen, I’ve already went as a player. I went as a coach at Western Michigan. I went as a coach couple times at Green Bay.’ You want it for them. You want them to be able to sit in the Titan Club with all their family and friends, and wait for that selection show to come on. If you’re a competitor, if you’re a Division I athlete, there’s really nothing like that moment in time. You love your kids so much, and you just want them to experience that at least once in their life.”

Making it as far as the NCAA tournament is something freshman Haleigh Ristovski (Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett) has given some thought to.

“Try and win a league championship, then try and get to the NCAA tournament,” she said. “That’s kind of my main goal, and I’m doing whatever I can to help the team in any way I can.”

If the Titans (3-10, at press time) want to make it to the NCAA tournament, Oakland University is one of the teams they may have to beat to do it, as the Golden Grizzlies are in their debut season in the Horizon League.

“It’s a great thing for us, economically,” Rademacher said. “They’re right here — more fans. I imagine once we go that first four minutes against them, that rivalry will be born. I am excited, because women’s basketball does struggle with attendance, and I think those will both be — here at Detroit and at Oakland — a well-attended game.”

Senior leadership can be a bonus for a team trying to make its way into the postseason, and Rademacher offered her thoughts on contributions the Titans have gotten from Megan Hatter (Howell) and Senee Shearer  (Pershing).

“Those two seniors have been doing a whale of a job,” she said. “Great role models and examples. Those two kids — both ends of the floor — have been great.”

If the Titans are going to make another successful run, they are going to have to do so without the services of Rosanna Reynolds (Divine Child), as the Titans’ guard is out for the season with an injury. UDM was also trying to make due without another one of its guards, as Tayelor McCalister (Firestone) missed some court time due to an injury.

Rademacher said, “It’s a real blessing for her to be back on the court,” but the Titans have had “different kids in different roles” due to injuries. And although UDM hasn’t necessarily always been able to play the style Rademacher would prefer, aside from expressing appreciation for the effort she has gotten from her current group of players, she has also given some thought as to what the future of Titans’ basketball could look like.

“I really am happy,” she said. “We signed four kids in the early signing period. They’re all athletic; they’re all competitive; they all can score. Those four kids coming in next year, they will be a part of that program, which is getting up and down, being able to play full court, pressure, fast-break — all those kinds of things. That’s where the future of the program is going, but right now, our kids are doing a really good job in the system we have.

“They are all good kids, and they work really hard. They’re eager, they do what they’re told, they’re on time, they’re doing great in the classroom — I have no issues.”

The Titans are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 in a home game against Cleveland State.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.