Women’s basketball exits nationals with home awards, high honors

No. 22 Blythe Williams and no. 41 Kyra Samuels block a forward advance. Photo by Trinity Athletics.

The No. 4/5 Trinity University Tigers defeated UTD in the NCAA Division III National Championship after losing 79-62 in the first round on March 3. However, the Comets secured several player awards and a program record.

After winning the American Southwest Conference, or ASC, for the seventh time in UTD history, the Comets were invited to the post-regular season to face the Tigers in the opening round of the national tournament. The Tigers were ranked the No. 4 team in all of DIII and number one in assets before the ASC finals, whereas the Comets were ranked 138 overall. Still, UTD put up an unforgettable fight.

Coach Joe Shotland finished his first season with the Comets and made history at UTD as the first first-year coach to go to nationals. Before coaching, Shotland was a player and captain of the Tigers’ men’s team from 2010 to 2014. While the outcome against his alma mater wasn’t what he hoped for, Shotland said he is excited that the team will be remembered in UTD history.

“[There’s] no better feeling than cutting the nets down with a team that you believe in and who believes in you. I’m so proud of this group. We earned it the hard way,” Shotland said.

Before the game began, the ASC awarded five athletes high honors for their talent and determination.

Senior Jordan Maxwell ended her last season as Defensive Player of the Year and received her third All-Defensive Team award. She is now the fifth player to have received Defensive Player of the Year in UTD basketball history.

“Maxwell sets the tone for a lot of what we do. Her defensive intensity and ability was the standard setter for the group,” Shotland said. “The rest of our team followed suit, and I’m proud to say there isn’t a tougher team out there [in the ASC].”

Senior Lauren Fulenwider was awarded the Newcomer of the Year, the third time this honor has been bestowed upon a Comet. She was also ranked No. 2 in the entire league for 3-pointers made, totaling 48 scores this season with 144 points scored in 3-pointers alone. Fulenwider made honorable mentions with senior Diane Hurst and sophomore Cierra Trigg.

Freshman Amanda Crowninshield, who ranked top three on the team for assets, steals and turnovers, was acknowledged and added to the All-Freshman Team.

All of these athletes played in the Comets’ final game this season in San Antonio where they faced a nearly undefeated team. The Comets scored 42.3% of field goals, 22.2% of 3-pointers and 80% of free throws, in comparison to the Tigers, who made 44.1% of field goals, 22.7% of 3-pointers and 75.9% of free throws. Despite the Comets’ renowned defense, the Tigers received more opportunities to score.

The game was close in the first quarter, but the Tigers unleashed their claws in the second quarter, slashing through the Comets to a 21-point lead. The Comets turned up the heat with some of the best maneuvers all season, ending the third quarter seven points behind. In the last quarter, the Comets chipped away at the Tigers, but not enough to break their lead. Ultimately, the Tigers won 79– 62.

Trigg led the game with 15 points, three rebounds and five turnovers. She attributed her success to the team’s efforts and their hours of defensive play practice.

“My teammates led to my field goals,” Trigg said. “Most of my shots came from passes from my teammates, so because they gave me the opportunity, I was able to make the shots that I did.”

Sophomore Trystan Clark followed up with 13 additional points, three turnovers and a steal before the game ended. Maxwell returned to the spotlight with nine points scored and seven rebounds recorded, breaking her career record for nine rebounds in one game. Junior Blythe Williams scored nine points, five rebounds, four turnovers, two assists and one steal.

March 3 was the last time Maxwell, Fulenwider, Hurst and senior Maddie Edler played on the court for the Comets, as they graduate this semester. The UTD women’s basketball team will return in the latter half of fall 2023 with a new roster.

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