The Wildcats didn’t get much credit heading into the season. They were originally projected to finished seventh in the Big East – well out of range of the Big East Tournament, and certainly not in NCAA Tournament discussion.
“Everyone was really upset about that, we thought we had more to prove,” Amanda Pedersen-Henry said.
They took it personally, taping signs with the number seven throughout their locker room as a daily reminder. Little by little, the Wildcats have turned heads with their play on the court.
A 25-8 record, a perfect 12-0 at home, an appearance at the Big East Tournament finals, and now, they can add ‘NCAA Tournament’ to their list of accomplishments this year.
Villanova secured its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1997.
“It’s a big moment for us,” head coach Josh Steinbach said. “We’re just ecstatic right now.”
Anticipation was mounting in the Fitzgerald Suite of the Pavilion, where the whole team waited anxiously to see if their season continued for at least one more week.
They were left waiting for quite some time, being revealed towards the end of the Selection Sunday show. It ended up being well worth the wait, not only for announcers to call out their name but something that veterans of the team have been waiting for.
“As a senior, for the past three years we haven’t had this chance,” Lauren Carpenter said. “It’s so surreal.”
This year’s Villanova team has turned things around for the program. Seniors on the team hadn’t seen a season above .500 or a Big East Tournament, they have changed all that.
It started with the mindset going into preseason, where the intensity rose from day one.
“The way we came in and competed with each other was different from any other time or season that we’ve had before,” Carpenter said.
Fierce competition was no longer saved for game days, it found its way into Jake Nevin Field House with each practice and hour of work put in.
“It was at a level that we haven’t seen in a while,” Steinbach said.
Fellow Big East teams Creighton and Marquette also join Villanova in the field of 64. The Wildcats will open up tournament play against Dayton. The first step in their NCAA Tournament journey will begin on Friday, December 4th, at 5 p.m.
Looking ahead, the Wildcats have a chance for a rematch against defending national champion Penn State in the second round of the tournament.
“This year, everything’s clicking,” Carpenter said, smiling. “Everything’s coming together, it’s just going perfectly.”