ABIGAIL LINNENKOHL | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
This year’s women’s basketball team’s performance was among the most historic we have ever seen for any WSU program.
Coming into the season, the Pac-12 coaches and media members both resoundingly picked the Cougars to finish on the bottom of the conference in their respective rankings.
In the history of the WSU women’s basketball program, the team had booked a ticket to the March Madness tournament just once. That one appearance came 30 years ago in the 1991 season.
The team had not had a winning season since their 17-15 finish in the 2014-15 season. Additionally, this year’s nine conference wins ties the program record in the Pac-12 from 2013-14.
All this goes to say, the turnaround that the Cougars have made is phenomenal. To even be in the conversation for a national tournament is huge. Making the NCAA Tournament was monumental.
A large chunk of the credit must go to Kamie Ethridge. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member and Olympic gold medalist has done wonders for the program that calls Pullman home.
Before Ethridge joined, the Cougars were never considered threats. In fact, it was the opposite. Teams viewed WSU as an easy win.
Even in Ethridge’s first couple of seasons, the Cougars were an easy target in the conference. You could see the team starting to fight more, but it was not enough.
That was until this year. With three wins against ranked opponents including a huge upset against a top-five UCLA, the Cougars were always a threat to knock off the better team.
Disregarding the two Stanford games, WSU’s two other ranked opponents only beat the Cougars by four in each game.
WSU was always a threat, especially in games where they were seemingly overmatched on paper. This is all because of the fight the team had.
The team is obviously much more talented than it has been in other years. With Charlisse Leger-Walker, Ula Motuga and Bella Murekatete leading the way, this team is loaded with talent that could see playing time at the next level.
But the fight the team showed is what made them such a challenge for opponents. Even when they seemed down and out after a slow start, the team was able to fight back to give opponents a scare or even pull off the victory.
And that all starts at the top. Ethridge has installed a system and a passion in this team that the Palouse has not seen in a while. The Cougars are a legitimate threat in the Pac-12 moving forward. And it is all thanks to Pat Chun’s decision to bring the All-American point guard of the first ever undefeated National Champions from Northern Colorado to Beasley Coliseum.
The WSU women’s basketball team is in good hands for the future and all Cougar fans should expect to see this young, talented team get better and better.