Now that the regular season has drawn to a close, the women’s basketball team has shifted their focus to the upcoming SSC Tournament. The last four games of their season were a telling story of how the team fared during the season.
On Feb. 18, the Spartans took on Saint Leo University in a hard fought matchup that came down to the wire. Both senior forward Aisha Rodney and junior guard Juliana Cavallaro led the offense for the Spartans as they each recorded 22 points.
Saint Leo controlled most of the first half with a commanding 11-point lead. The Spartans chipped away at the score, and went on a 12-7 run to cut the halftime lead to four.
In the second half the Spartans jumped ahead of Saint Leo, leading by five with 9:55 left in the game. With 1:22 left in the game, and the score tied, Saint Leo nailed a three pointer to take the lead. Cavallaro went right down the court making an easy layup to pull the Spartans within one. Saint Leo would go on to make key free throws on the next position to seal the 63-61 victory for the Lions.
Looking to bounce back, the Spartans hosted No. 17 ranked Rollins College. The Spartans dominated Rollins as they grabbed 46 rebounds, and held the Tars to only 29 percent shooting from the field. The Spartans drained an impressive 11 three pointers, shooting 50 percent for the entire second half. Junior guard/forward Ellen Nurmi scored a team high 22 points, while also securing seven rebounds and six assists. Nurmi scored 17 of her 22 points in the second half with 12 of them coming from behind the three point arc.
It was also a special night for Cavallaro, who reached a milestone in her Spartan career of 1,000 career points. “It feels really good to have reached this milestone. I could not have accomplished this without my teammates,” Cavallaro said. The Spartans never looked back, blowing out Rollins 66-47.
Next, the Spartans took on Florida Southern College in the final road matchup of the regular season. After a great performance by both teams in the first half, the Mocs took over the second half outscoring the Spartans by 44-23. UT was held to just 26.7 percent shooting from the field in the half, while the Mocs shot an impressive 54.5 percent. Once again, Cavallaro and Rodney were on point for the Spartans, leading the team in scoring with 15 points each. Tampa lost this one by a score of 79-54.
In the final game of the regular season, the Spartans looked to end the season on a high note with a win over Barry. Before the game, the Spartans honored their seniors Jenny Taptich, Catherine Matthews and Rodney. The Spartans started the game on a roll and would never look back, heading into halftime with a 37-21 lead. Cavallaro led the Spartans with 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Nurmi and Rodney both finished in double digits with 12 and 11 points respectively. Tampa would go on to win by 20 with a final score of 70-50.
Talking about the season as a whole, “I think we have progressed throughout the year from where we were at the beginning of the year. We have faced some adversity this year but have also had some big wins. We still have one more goal to accomplish this season. We plan to win the SSC tournament to get a bid to the NCAA tournament,” Cavallaro said.
Tampa opens up Sunshine State Conference play on Thursday against Florida Tech.
Ed Kerner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org