Despite dropping a pair of road game against the two-time defending Conference USA champion Rice Owls this past weekend, Louisiana Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr is confident heading into the league championship March 9-13 at The Star in Frisco.
“I like this group,” said Stoehr, who saw her team fall 73-50 and 64-53 to Rice on Friday and Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston. “I like their demeanor. I like their fight. We just have to continue to give a little bit more and get a little more production.”
Although many of the Conference USA teams still have one regular season weekend remaining – eight of the 14 teams still have two-game series remaining – the Lady Techsters (13-9, 8-8 C-USA) are locked into the No. 4 seed from the West Division. Tech will face the No. 5 seed from the East, an opponent that won’t be known until after this coming weekend’s games conclude.
Stoehr knows regardless of who her team will face (WKU, Marshall, FAU and Old Dominion are all possibilities) in the first round of the league tournament, it will be a quality opponent. She also knows that the team on the other end of the court may not be the toughest opponent in what has been a challenging 2020-21 season.
“It’s going to be difficult whoever we face,” said Stoehr. “But the whole wildcard is this daily testing once we get there. What happens when we get to Frisco. We have all been using certain labs and certain protocols within our own systems. And now it is going to be totally in someone else’s hands with what that looks like.
“Some teams could be eliminated not by playing on the court, but by having a positive test. It’s the same approach we have had all year. We are going to be grateful every day we get to go out as a group and compete, whether that is practice or a game.
“I have been really proud of this team. I never dreamed we would get to 16 conference games this year … and we never had a cancellation for COVID. It was weather. I have been thankful for Mandy (Miller) and the job our training staff and our administration has done in allowing us the opportunity for these kids to compete in a safe environment. And then the job our players have done. They want to play and they want to compete.”
Heading into the C-USA Championships coming off a loss to Rice isn’t necessarily the worst thing. Last year Tech dropped its season finale at home to the Owls, but then pulled the biggest upset on the first day – the only day – of the league championships by defeating UAB.
Stoehr expects to see the same resolve from this year’s Techster team.
“We have to continue to battle and fight,” said Stoehr. “We still have some basketball left. Our players continue to compete in such a weird year; a draining year; an exhausting year. They want to compete and they want to win.”
Photo: by Tom Morris