Kennedy and the Wolf Pack shift focus to NAIA Tournament
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The 2016-17 season for the women’s basketball team has been a historic one to say the least, and it’s not over yet.
The team, fresh off of a 25-5 regular season, entered the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament as the number one seed. With an opportunity to advance to the conference title game, the Wolf Pack squandered a late lead to Mobile University in the semifinals and fell short of their own expectations, according to Kellie Kennedy, head coach.
“We were not happy. Nobody was happy in that locker room. We just didn’t play well. Fortunately, we already punched our ticket to the national tournament, and so that outcome didn’t matter as far as that was concerned,” Kennedy said.
The season began on a historic note as Kennedy recorded her 174th career win, officially making her Loyola’s winningest head coach.
Kennedy chalked up much of her success to her players that she has coached over the years.
Meghan Temple, mass communication senior, has been instrumental in helping Kennedy cement her legacy in the Loyola record books. Temple is just one of two players on the team to average double digit points (12.4 points per game) while functioning as the team’s leading rebounder (9.6 rebounds per game).
“Meghan Temple has just been an anchor for us, and she has done that offensively and defensively time and time again. She just does so much for us,” Kennedy said, as she praised her star player.
Kennedy wasn’t the only one on the team to make history this season. In the Wolf Pack’s 65-59 semifinal loss to Millsaps, Temple became the first player in Loyola history to surpass 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
“It’s been a milestone that I have set in place since my freshman year, and to finally accomplish it this year in the tournament was big for me. After the game, after all of the emotions had settled, I realized that I actually did it. I got emotional all over again so it was pretty exciting,” Temple said.
“For her to get 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds over her career is just amazing. So impressive. She is ranked in the top-10 nationally, in six statistical categories,” Kennedy added.
Currently, all history is being set aside as Kennedy and her team prepare for the first round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Tournament in Billings, Montana. The team received an automatic bid to the national tournament after winning the conference regular season title.
Kennedy notes that the team’s depth will give them a huge advantage when tournament action rolls around next week. Additionally, the team’s versatility will prove to be a tough matchup for anyone who stands in the way of the Wolf Pack this March.
“I mean we have more depth than we have ever had. We have a lot of weapons offensively, we can defend, we can shoot the ball and we have an inside presence. That’s a lot, to have all those weapons,” Kennedy said.
Temple won’t be holding back as she prepares to play her last tournament in a Loyola uniform.
“We want to go out with a bang. We hope to advance to the Elite Eight like we did our freshman year or further, as well. We’re hoping to go pretty deep,” Temple said.
Just as the season began in historical fashion, Loyola’s women’s basketball team will look to end it in the same manner by advancing past the Elite Eight in the association’s tournament — something that’s never been done in program history.
“I think this team can do whatever they set their minds too. We have to take it one game at a time and see where that takes us,” Kennedy said.
The Wolf Pack won’t have to wait long to get back in the action as they gained the sixth seed in the association’s tournament and will match up against the third seed, Montana State-Northern Skylights on March 16 at 8 p.m. in Billings, Montana.