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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Observer

Future is bright for Holy Cross women’s basketball after historic season

Holy Cross sophomore forward Grace Adams drives into the paint during a game against Saint Mary's in December.
Holy Cross sophomore forward Grace Adams drives into the paint during a game against Saint Mary’s in December.

To many, Holy Cross women’s basketball’s 81-62 win over Trinity International University on Feb. 11 may not have seemed particularly noteworthy. But this victory meant something much more for head coach Tom Robbins and his players.

The Saints went a miserable 16-35 across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. They bounced back big time in 2021-22, finishing a respectable 15-15. Their first winning season, however, still remained out of reach. That changed this season, as the Saints closed out the regular season with a program record of 16-12.

“By the time we got to the end of [setting the record], we had put in that volume of work and really built to that point. It was a very celebratory situation for us,” Robbins said. “It became this stamp on our season.”

The boon in regular season success is owed largely to the two-headed monster of sophomore guard Jordyn Smith and sophomore forward Grace Adams. The duo both finished top 10 in their conference in scoring, combining to average over 27 points a game. Smith also finished fourth in the CCAC with four assists per game, and Adams was third in rebounds with 9.4 per game.

“Grace Adams took a huge step forward this year as a sophomore from what she did as a freshman. It wasn’t unforeseen. We saw that potential was there, and she became one of the top players in the conference,” said Robbins. “Jordyn Smith also took a significant step forward this year with what she was able to do and became one of the perennial point guards in the league as well. So both of those players will be coming back as juniors, and we’re expecting bigger things from them as well.”

Behind their dominance, the Saints caught fire as the season progressed, finishing the regular season on a spectacular 9-4 run. Wins in their final two regular season games secured their first winning record in conference play since 2018-19 (12-8). Even though they were not one of a top seed, there were plenty of reasons for the Saints to feel good about their playoff chances.

But their momentum did not carry into the postseason. A nightmare second quarter in their playoff opener against No. 2 seed IU Northwest proved to be too much to overcome. Despite trimming a 15-point halftime deficit to as little as four, the Saints fell 76-70 to the Red Hawks, ending their season.

Despite the disappointing conclusion, Robbins remains hopeful for the future, and with good reason. The Saints have just one senior, guard Jayda Miller. Seven of their ten players from this year’s team are underclassmen. If they can take the same type of jump they have each of the last two seasons again, there may not just celebrate new program bests, but playoff success as well.

“Besides trying to get that winning season, our other goal was to be that young team that comes into the tournament and surprises people,” Robbins said. “We came up short from that situation. But it gave us a perspective of what we want to accomplish next year and what our new goals would be going forward to accomplish that.”