PITTSBURGH — It certainly was not the season the Duquesne Women’s Basketball Team was looking for and it did not advance to postseason play for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
We will examine the season as it was in this piece, which will look very similar to the men’s basketball piece.
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Nov. 6 @ TCU
Duquesne knew its Texas road trip was going to be an important early measuring stick. Like Duquesne, TCU was a WNIT participant. Duquesne went into the game fully expecting to win it, but that was not to be as it fell 61-48.
TCU scored the opening 10 points of the contest and Duquesne had six in the first quarter. This was an issue which affected the team several times last season.
“You’re going to go through starts like that, shots were ones we knock down at a good percentage,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said after the TCU loss. “Not going to free throw line and secondly we feel like they didn’t box out well and we did not pursue at the level we needed to, we stood around a lot. These were the same problems we have last year. Common theme with having an edge.”
What was more troubling from this outcome was Duquesne’s four seniors which received preseason honors shot 4-for-29 from the field.
Duquesne cut its deficit to eight points at the end of the third quarter, but a slow start in the final stanza resulted in defeat.
TCU made the WNIT field.
Nov. 8 @ 11/8 Texas
The task was more challenging facing Texas, clearly a ranked team on the road and Duquesne fell by a 78-41 score.
Similar to the TCU game, Duquesne was outscored 24-7 after the first quarter and had 12 points at halftime
“We didn’t shoot the ball with any normalcy,” Burt said of that game. “That’s how you get to 24-7. We are a team that will not out-athlete or out-size people. Have to be able to shoot the ball better than 21 percent, which we did in the first half. It was a rout and there are not a lot of good things to take away from this.”
It was clear that Duquesne had an expectation of at least 1-1 heading back to Pittsburgh and were unable to get that job done. Burt tried remaining positive when he stated his team was 0-3 once before and that was an NCAA Tournament team.
At season’s end, Texas made the NCAA Tournament.
Nov. 12 vs Mount St. Mary’s
Duquesne was able to get into the win column following a 73-64 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.
“The mantra of the day, for the last 48 hours, has been to start fast and we really emphasized that, but we were not able to sustain that.” Burt said. “We were not perfect and we ended up having a team we didn’t think could shoot the three this well and credit goes to them. We are really pressing a little too much and when we don’t make shots our defensive energy is not where it needs to be.”
Laia Sole flirted with a double-double, settling for 14 points and nine rebounds.
Duquesne was able to come out aggressive winning the first quarter by a 27-4 score, but was unable to maintain that standard of play, losing each of the next three quarters.
The Mount shot 65.4% from the field but Duquesne was able to hold serve in the end and earn an important win after the Texas trip.
“I mean it’s really important after those two games,” redshirt sophomore guard Nina Aho said. “We’re still not feeling great about our game. We have to fix a lot of things but it still feels good to get the first win.”
Nov. 18 @ Toledo
Duquesne got off to a slow start once again dropped it 19-8 to Toledo and lost 65-52. The Dukes allowed Toledo to shoot 48% from the field while it fired at a 32.8% clip.
Still, the Dukes were able to come back and tie the game in the third quarter, only for Toledo to outscore them 13-1 in a critical stretch.
Duquesne was a -10 in rebounding which also played a factor in the setback.
Toledo appeared in the WNIT.
Nov. 25 @ Saint Francis
Duquesne won each of the first three quarters in this contest, winning the game by a 93-73 final score. Saint Francis did square the contest at 13 in the first quarter, but Duquesne closed the frame on a 13-5 run.
This game was a team effort as the Duquesne bench scored 41 points and everyone was able to make a contribution.
Nov. 28 @ Kent State
Julijana Voijinovic had her first start of the season and got off to a quick start scoring 11 of the team’s first 14 points and a second quarter Dan Burt technical foul seemed to provide a boost to Duquesne, which came back in the second half to win 77-72 at Kent State.
Chassidy Omogrosso scored 24 points, 12 of which came from the free throw line.
Kent State made the WNIT.
Dec. 5 @ Penn State
It was a close contest, but Duquesne earned an important road victory defeating Penn State 64-58.
Amanda Kalin set a career high with 15 points shooting 6-for-9 from the field, while Paige Cannon recorded her fourth career double-double at 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“In the second half we were able to advance the ball more quickly,” Burt said. “We wanted to make this a high-possession game. In the first half we played to their tempo and in the second half we played to ours. That was the difference in the game.”
After the season, Penn State relieved Coquese Washington of her coaching duties.
Dec. 12 vs UCF
Duquesne struggled early with UCF’s press defense and returned home to the Palumbo Center for the first time in a month as 71-63 losers.
UCF scored the game’s opening 13 points and never trailed in the first half.
“From the beginning, we should not allow them to be up by 13,” senior guard Julijana Vojinovic said. “We were playing at their tempo and turning the ball over. Finally we were able to manage the basketball and tried to fight and did not lose faith. Being down by 13 at the beginning cost us a lot.”
Duquesne did take a lead in the third quarter, using a 12-5 run to accomplish this.
This lead did not last as long as Duquesne desired as UCF increased its defensive intensity and the Dukes were unable to make the open looks it had. Duquesne also was 5-for-14 on its layups in this contest.
“We needed to just relax,” senior forward Kadri-Ann Lass said. “It’s a layup, it is not anything crazy. I could have embraced the contact and I faded away. I missed two in the second quarter too.”
Overall, a lot of similar problems from earlier losses returned which caused this loss.
“I’m not going to lie, this has been a very tough year,” Burt said. “We’ve had some injuries to key people and we’ve not performed up to our capabilities. I am certainly in no way worried. What we’ve got to do is get back in the lab, and I have to hold them to the fire.”
UCF did make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Dec. 16 vs ETSU
Duquesne was a part of another close game but what allowed it to win a 66-58 contest was its veteran poise which allowed it to remain calm while ETSU committed late turnovers.
“Any game has its ups and downs but it’s about who goes on a run and who answers the run,” senior guard Chassidy Omogrosso said. “I think we did a good job answering ETSU’s runs. Come conference play we will have a lot of games that are close that we have to hold our lead.
Duquesne lost to this ETSU team a season ago and the team felt it let one slip away on the road. It did not forget that feeling this season.
Dec. 21 vs 15/14 Syracuse
Julijiana Vojinovic was able to score her 1,000th career point in this game, but Duquesne fell to a ranked Syracuse team.
Duquesne again faced an uphill battle when it was scored 27-14 in the first quarter and even a season-high 12 three-point shots was not enough. A total of six Syracuse players reached double figures.
Another bright side to this game was Eniko Kuttor’s return to the court after battling medical issues.
Dec. 22 vs Liberty
Duquesne scored four points in the fourth quarter, allowing Liberty to comeback and earn a 55-51 victory. Duquesne played in consecutive days as it was competing in St. Petersburg.
As part of the four points, Duquesne did not score in the final 8:09 of regulation and were 4-for-21 on its three-point shots. Kadri-Ann Lass had 21 points in the contest.
Dec. 29 vs Pitt
Pitt was able to win its first City Game contest since 2013 as Lance White got a friendly introduction to the local contest.
Duquesne meanwhile was again searching for answers.
“I think Coach White did a great job of getting his players to play to their strengths and be in position to have success,” Burt said. “His players never gave up. It is a victory that is deserved for them. We are a broken team. We are in a place where I don’t have a whole lot of answers. I have not been 5-7 for 20-plus years. At this point, I don’t have players that can give the answers either and that’s evident by the stats.”
Burt stated the loss was an emotional situation given that it is the City Game and the team was embarrassed. Duquesne surrendered a nine-point lead, missing several open looks in the process.
In total, Duquesne shot 19% from the field in the fourth quarter.
“We make 300 threes a day and 100 free throws a day,” said Burt. “Once kids shoot it on the gun they have to text me. Everyone shoots 60% from the field and 85% or better from the line. When no one is guarding them they make shots but under the bright lights it ain’t happening now. We’re soft. As a coaching staff we had to recognize that sooner and we did not. As players we should be more aggressive team, tougher and that falls back on me that we’re not, so blame me.”
Following this game, Burt determined that the leash was gone and 12 games with a 5-7 cumulative record have shown that things just have not been working.
Jan. 2 vs Temple
Libby Bazelak split free throws in the closing seconds as Duquesne wrapped up its non-conference schedule with a 54-53 win over Temple.
“You look back at this as a win and not what it was, an ugly basketball game we were able to gut out,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “We played with some toughness and with a little belief. We had three charges and multiple dives on the floor. I am really happy with some of our effort but by no means was this a masterpiece.”
Prior to the game, Burt watched Hamilton which had just premiered at the Benedium Center in Downtown Pittsburgh and came away with the mantra “talk less, smile more”, something he tried to use for the rest of the season.
Burt admitted that this season has felt long not just due to the traveling but more so because the team has not performed up to expectations.
Pitt winning the City Game was viewed as a slap in the face and Lass viewed this game as just what was needed to close out non-conference play.
Bazelak meanwhile had the best game of her Duquesne career with 12 points and 10 rebounds, playing 35 minutes.
“There is a reason why she played 35 minutes,” Burt said. “That ball may have come at her face but there is a reason why and it is because she moved her feet to know where the ball is coming off the rim. To have six offensive rebounds as a guard, that’s exceptional and is all about effort. A little bit of intuition and a lot of just getting to the glass and not accepting standing and watching. That’s the best stat of the night, maybe of the year.”
Jan. 5 @ St. Bonaventure
A crucial 17-6 advantage in the third quarter allowed Duquesne to open Atlantic 10 play with a 60-54 victory over St. Bonaventure.
Amanda Kalin matched a career high with eight rebounds in this contest.
Duquesne has had its troubles winning in Olean, NY, and this win was far from routine, in fact it was down eight at one point in the first quarter and had a back-and-forth battle before halftime to gain the lead before the third quarter provided necessary separation.
Jan. 9 vs Davidson
Duquesne felt good about its chances in this game after a positive shootaround, but instead shot 33.3% from the field in a 62-47 loss to Davidson.
“We are a bad basketball team that doesn’t play hard enough, is selfish and frankly can’t shoot a basketball to save our lives at this point,” Burt said. “I am completely at my wit’s end with the character and the talent we have to be in the situation that we are in. I have played more than multiple combinations and we cannot seem to have success with a whole lot of those. I’ve described it as one foot forward at two steps back.”
This game was the first in a doubleheader, so much of the media and broadcasters preparing for the men’s game were hearing Burt for the first time and some had stunned looks on their faces.
“I thought the kids were prepared for what they would face and they didn’t throw anything new at us,” said Burt. “Defensively we gave them two threes and another bucket early. We think because our hand is there that is acceptable but if they can shoot it, they’re not that uncomfortable. We are a poor defensive team, we don’t guard the ball well, we certainly don’t guard dribble penetration and that’s what you get when you are 7-8 and lose by 15.”
In this game, Duquesne was not the same in the post after Paige Cannon picked up two early fouls.
“Until that locker room decides to police itself a little bit, nothing’s going to change,” Burt said. “We’ll have dog fights every game, win some and lose some but not what Duquesne thinks it should be. When will those seven kids step up and take ownership? There is a mentality in that locker room that has to change. Certainly as coaches we have things to do also.”
Jan. 13 @ George Mason
Prior to this game, Duquesne had a lengthy team meeting in which everyone aired out any issues and it was done respectfully without putting others down.
In the first half of the team’s contest against George Mason, shots were not falling, but instead of crumbling, Duquesne came together and won 60-57.
Halle Bovell blocked a shot with 15 seconds remaining and Chassidy Omogrosso made two free throws to secure the victory.
“Two days ago we really had a strong, positive team meeting that really aired a lot of really raw emotion and took care of elephants in the room,” Burt admitted to PSN’s Scott Elliott. “I really feel our kids in really good place now, and that’s one through 16, so I think good days are coming.”
Jan. 16 vs Saint Joseph’s
Julijana Vojinovic felt good about her team following an 81-73 victory over Saint Joseph’s and it really was hard to blame her.
“This is the first game, or maybe one of them where we boxed out really hard,” she said. “We lacked in some other games to box at but this specific game, we were very good. Everybody contributed with what they were best at. We just need to show more support to each other and everything will be better. It already has started, it’s not going to be great right away but it feels really nice that things are better.”
The game was the first time Burt spoke at home about the meeting, one which he states typically happens once a season.
“I’ve never had a meeting like that,” he said. “I thought it was the best one I’ve ever been a part of. A lot of credit goes to the seniors but to the team overall and holding ourselves to a standard we always had but we let slip a little bit and us as coaches too.”
Vojinovic believes the team avoided some of its problems for a while, to the point that everything exploded.
“Everyone got to say what they wanted to say so everyone is kind of lighter and the overall emotions are more positive,” said Lass. “Everyone is working harder. None of us realized how much each of us were going through and once we got that out of the way, we realized we are all in this together. It’s very easy to support each other and be happy for each other. Today everyone could see more smiles and we felt more comfortable on the floor.”
Duquesne had grown stale as a team but by keeping things simple, the team was able to hold on for an important win.
Jan. 19 vs Richmond
Halle Bovell’s end-of-game block was the exclamation point of an 80-54 victory over Richmond.
“For me, I turned the ball over, that’s the only reason they had the ball, so that should not happen,” Bovell said. “(When) you cause a turnover, you have to get the ball back, that’s how I was taught. That’s kind of how the big play came about. I had one big block before in Canada, but nothing where the crowd reacted like that. Our home crowd was great today, so loud and brought so much energy into our game.”
Bovell was a redshirt last season with the intention of adding arc to her shot but in the offseason with so many guards ahead of her in the depth chart, so an assistant coaching staff idea for her to play a post position in a Golden State Warriors style of play was pitched and it largely paid off.
“When an opportunity arises, you take it and her moving to the post was an opportunity,” said Burt. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you we expected that, because we didn’t. but she’s a valuable and integral part of our team that will play important minutes and she can defend. We can switch 1-though-4. A lot of teams in our league play four guards, so when she is in we can switch 1 through 4 and not miss a beat. Halle’s never quit. She’s been disgruntled, frustrated, I’m sure she’s been sad, but she’s happy now.”
As a team Duquesne had 51 rebounds and shot 46.7% from the field in this game.
After losing its first round contest to Saint Louis, Richmond parted ways with its coach, Michael Shafer.
Jan. 23 @ La Salle
Duquesne won its fourth consecutive game, this time by a 66-62 score against La Salle as Julijana Vojinovic flirted with a double-double settling for 13 points and nine rebounds.
The game was one in which both teams traded the lead. La Salle led by nine point in the third quarter but Duquesne responded with a 9-1 run.
After Duquesne was held scoreless for the first 3:46 of the fourth quarter but overcame that wave and La Salle retaking the lead when Vojinovic sank two free throws, putting the Dukes up for good.
Jan. 27 vs George Washington
It was a tale of two games as Duquesne lost 55-54 to George Washington.
On one hand, Duquesne trailed by as many as 24 points, but the Dukes were also able to come back and had a legitimate opportunity to steal a win.
“I’m in the school of thought where I am very disappointed with how our team performed, especially early,” said Burt. “Our shootaround was not good. We did a good job of policing ourselves, having energy and finding some toughness over the last five days and then we got a little lackadaisical. When you start the game 4-15 and then 1-13 so basically 17% for the half and only go to the free throw line on two separate occasions and only commit two fouls, you haven’t done your job.”
Duquesne closed the game on a 32-9 run but ultimately did not overcome shooting 17.9% in the first half and taking four free throws in the opening 20 minutes.
Feb. 3 @ Fordham
Duquesne held a four-point lead heading into the second quarter against A-10 opponent Fordham but when the Rams nailed three consecutive triples it changed the game. Duquesne lost the contest 57-46.
Again Duquesne came back, making the contest a one-possession game, but a three-minute scoreless streak secured the defeat.
Feb. 7 @ Massachusetts
Chassidy Omogrosso broke Duquesne’s all-time three-pointers made record but it came in a 69-66 losing effort to UMass.
The loss was Duquesne’s third in a row with the key being a 29-9 third-quarter deficit after leading by nine points at halftime.
Amanda Kalin scored a career-high with her 17 points in the contest.
Feb. 10 vs Dayton
Duquesne appeared to take all of its frustration into this Dayton game winning 85-57;
“Anytime you shoot the basketball 48% from the field and 48% from the free throw line, you have to feel good about your team,” Burt said. “I take greater satisfaction with how hard we played. We showed great physicality all game and had many contributions. It was a complete team win, I am really proud of our team, especially against a team like Dayton.”
Julijana Vojinovic contributed 23 points from the field, on 7-for-11 shooting, which included a career high of six made three-point shots.
“I have been struggling this season, especially with my three-point shooting and I’ve tried everything,” said Vojinovic. “Every game I keep telling myself that the ball is going to go in. I don’t back down and I believe it will happen. It felt so nice that I made all of the threes that I missed previously. Then, you have good teammates who fight for each other. I like challenges, so it makes me stronger.”
In addition to the three ball working for Duquesne, the Dukes were a +16 in the paint.
“I think our post players played hard today,” Kadri-Ann Lass said. “We were prepared to battle hard against them. We knew that the more physical team would win today. Once we got it going, there was a feeling of confidence.”
This game also was the first in which Halle Bovell started and save for senior day, this became a constant throughout the remainder of the season.
Feb. 13 vs Saint Louis
Duquesne could not find an answer for Saint Louis’s Jordyn Frantz in the second half as she scored 21 of 24 points in that stretch, something which proved decisive in a 67-63 setback to the Billikens.
Saint Louis led by 11 points after the third quarter and used a 17-6 run to tie the game with 1:27 left, when Frantz made the game-winning layup.
Duquesne had a chance to tie the game with 14 seconds left but Saint Louis’s Kerri McMahan drew a charging foul.
Feb. 17 @ Rhode Island
Duquesne relied on a trio of Libby Bazelak, Kadri-Ann Lass and Julijana Vojinovic who combined for 46 points in a 75-58 victory over Rhode Island.
A 17-point Duquesne first quarter was highlighted by 10 points off of turnovers. This would set a theme as Duquesne forced a season-high 25 miscues.
Feb. 20 @ Saint Joseph’s
In terms of wins, the 67-56 road triumph over Saint Joseph’s to complete a season sweep may have been Dan Burt’s favorite.
Duquesne historically has had a problem winning at Saint Joseph’s and the entire team had to contribute to earn this win.
Julijana Vojinovic scored 20 points off the bench and Duquesne owned a 34-20 points in the paint advantage.
Feb. 23 vs VCU
Duquesne trailed by eight points with 2:02 remaining in regulation to the A-10’s top team in the conference standings, but fought back, winning 71-68 in overtime.
“It just shows that we’re really just all in,” senior guard Conor Richardson said. “Everyone has bought in and this is the team I know and love. This is the Duquesne Dukes right here.”
Duquesne forced overtime when Chassidy Omogrosso sank a three-point shot with 7.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Omogrosso went from asking for a foul after she released the ball to jumping up and down with excitement over the make.
“I still can’t even put it to words,” she said. “I just thought it was an and-one because she hit my hand, that’s why I reacted so strongly, I wanted to shoot three free throws, then it went in. Then we should have won on the free throw, but it’s okay, we went into overtime, so that’s all that matters.”
Feb. 27 @ George Washington
An 11-3 third-quarter run allowed Duquesne to defeat GW 64-53. Chassidy Omogrosso had 19 points and was one of four Duquesne players to reach double figures.
The victory positioned Duquesne for an inside track to earn the third seed at the Atlantic 10 Championships.
Mar. 2 vs St. Bonaventure
Duquesne ended its regular season with an 80-64 victory over St. Bonaventure, giving itself 17 regular season wins.
Despite all of the hardships, Burt found this regular season to be a rewarding one.
“People will think that I’m crazy or sadistic, but I’ve enjoyed this year more than any other year save the NCAA Tournament season,” Burt said. “We’ve had a puzzle and it’s an incomplete puzzle and I’ve been trying to figure out how to put the pieces together. You can start to see how the pieces are going into the right spots. We still have a couple of loose pieces that we have to finish the puzzle.”
The victory secured Duquesne earning the third seed in the Atlantic 10 Championship. The top two teams earned a first-round bye, the third season this rule has been in effect. Duquesne did not play a first-round game last year and lost to Saint Louis in the quarterfinal.
Since Duquesne was the highest seed to play in the campus site games, it would play the lowest seed in the conference which ended up being Rhode Island due to it losing a head-to-head contest against the team it was tied for last place with in La Salle.
“For anyone that’s watched us, we’re obviously in the flow, we’re in a rhythm,” said Burt. “I feel really good about March.”
Mar. 5 vs Rhode Island
Duquesne put together its best 40 minutes of the season defeating Rhode Island 106-69 to advance to the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals.
The Dukes shot a Burt-era best 63.5% from the field, had 61 bench points and 48 points in the paint.
“Everybody that touched the floor today gave us something,” Richardson said. “If we continue to do this through the tournament, we can’t be stopped. Coming this time of the season when we can play this many girls, that is amazing. There’s no letup and our starters get some rest. How many points was it, 61? Hey, you can’t stop that. Just our bench could have beaten a team.”
Chassidy Omogrosso scored a game-high 22 points passing Candace Futrell for third place on the team’s all-time scoring list.
Duquesne has now scored at least 100 points in a game for the third time in program history, with the first coming in a 116-point effort Nov. 23, 1990 against Valparaiso and a 100-point effort on the nose coming 19 years later on Nov. 15, 2009 at Niagara.
“When you make shots and shoot 70% in the first half, you’re going to feel really good about yourself, and we did,” said Burt. “It is the start of our third season and I’m emphasized that our back is against the wall. There is no postseason if we lose on Friday or Saturday. I don’t think we had an air of desperation tonight, but rather an air of confidence.”
Rhode Island parted ways with its coach Daynia La-Force after the season, meaning this was her final game.
Mar. 8 vs Saint Louis
Duquesne avenged its loss earlier this season as well as the previously mentioned quarterfinal loss, pulling away in the second half for a 72-51 win over Saint Louis.
“We had so many great contributions from a lot of different people,” Burt said. “I thought that really our defense created our offense today and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve done today.”
This year, the Atlantic 10 Championship weekend was contested at the Palumbo Center, giving Duquesne a home-court advantage.
Duquesne held Saint Louis to 29.9% shooting from the field, holding Rookie of the Year Ciaja Harbison to seven points and Jordyn Frantz shot 1-for-11 from the field.
A 15-0 third quarter run, put Duquesne in front for good and clearly appeared to take the proverbial wind out of Saint Louis’s sails.
“The run was extremely big,” said Omogrosso. “I think that we gained a lot of momentum. We run on a run and we said ‘no let up’ from there. We got a lot of stops during that run which was big too.”
Mar. 9 vs Fordham
Duquesne saw its dreams of winning its first-ever Atlantic 10 Championship on its home court come to an end with a decisive 76-34 loss to Fordham.
Fordham made 10 of its first 12 three-point shots from the field, while Duquesne scored its lowest point total since 1975.
“Sometimes you have incredible games when you shoot the ball exceptionally well,” Burt said. “Today Fordham played an incredible basketball game, they proved how good they are. On our end it certainly is bitter but an accomplished group of seniors kind of go out in a game like this. We expect to continue to play and get a WNIT bid. We’re hoping that will happen.”