AZUSA (CBSLA) – For the second year in a row, the Azusa Pacific Women’s basketball team made the elite eight at the NCAA D-II tournament, despite the disruption of an ongoing pandemic, player injuries and only a few returning seniors to guide the roster.
“We really talked as a team,” said Head Coach T.J. Hardeman, “to say, ‘Hey, let’s be flexible because we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen and it might not stay the same. So, let’s be ready to roll with the changes that happened, and yet still focus on being as good a team as we can be and getting the most out of our season.’”
Being supportive of all the new players and growing the team both on and off the court played an important role in APU’s ability to get to as far as they did, said Alex Lowden, a guard on the team and a junior at the university.
Out for five weeks due to injury, senior forward Laura Pranger had to be supportive from the sideline at times, while sophomore guard Paige Uyehara felt like she learned how to take more of a leadership role.
Hardeman made it clear that as exciting as getting to the elite eight for the second time was, everyone was disappointed at not making it further.
“There’s nothing like a dream like that, to be able to dream and say, ‘We can do this,’ and then see it firsthand. ‘Yeah, that’s not crazy.’ You can make it reality with the amount of work and breaks and everything else that goes into winning a national championship,” he said.