The Syracuse women's basketball season came to an unceremonious end Tuesday night as they lost to the juggernaut that is the Connecticut Huskies in the National Championship game. There is no shame in losing to that team. It is simply the best the sport has ever seen with the best player the sport has ever seen.
Syracuse trailed by 27 entering halftime. The lead swelled to over 30 in the third quarter. The Orange continued to show the same heart, grit and effort that allowed to have such an amazing season. They went on a 16-0 run in that third quarter to put some pressure on the Huskies.
Ultimately, it was not enough, but they showed a lot of heart. They showed they can compete at the highest level.
Despite ending the year with a loss, the program took several giant leaps forward with historic achievements. Here are just a few:
- The first Sweet-16 in program history
- The first Elite-8 in program history
- The first Final Four in program history
- The first National Championship game appearance in program history
- School record 30 wins
- Significant national attention, recognition and publicity for their run in the NCAA Tournament
- Hosting NCAA Tournament games for the first time
- Brianna Butler setting the NCAA record for most three-pointers made in a single season
- First appearance in the ACC Tournament title game
- Achieved highest ever ranking in the AP and Coaches Polls, including finished No. 3 in the final Coaches Poll
- Senior class won 99 games and seven NCAA Tournament contests, the most ever for any class in program history
Not a bad year at all. During their run, they knocked off a one loss South Carolina team that was a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. They avenged a loss to Louisville in the ACC Tournament semifinals, a team that spent most of the year in the top 20. The Orange beat Florida State who was ranked in the top-10 at the time.
It was a big time year for Syracuse women's basketball, who also picked up more local attention than perhaps the program ever had in the past.
When head coach Quentin Hillsman took over the program over 10 years ago, it was, quite simply, a joke. Losing season after losing season with little hope of competitive basketball. Now, they play one of the most exciting brands of hoops in the game and the program is in tremendous shape.
The recruitments of Brianna Butler and Brittney Sykes represented the first McDonald's All-Americans to sign with the Orange. Now Hillsman can point to tangible success when on the recruiting trail.
The attendance at women's games this season was far too low for the season they were having. But to the credit of Central New Yorkers, they had a representative crowd during the NCAA Tournament games despite having to compete with the men for attention. Hopefully, going forward, strong attendance numbers will become the norm.
Syracuse brings back some talented players for the 2016-17 campaign. Alexis Peterson, Brittney Sykes, the Day sisters and others return. Three freshmen who did not play much this season but were highly touted out of high school (Davida Dale, Julia Chandler and Jade Phillips) will also be ready for bigger roles.
Coming in are five talented players, headlined by five-star (ESPN) guard Desiree Elmore.
The Orange women have set themselves up to build and continue to take the program to new heights. After reaching so many historical achievements in 2015-16, the next step is consistency. Maintaining that high level of play. That and taking the next step of winning a championship.