Women’s Basketball Caps Historic Season

Sam Partonen ‘14 plows down the court in January during a Capital Athletic Conference game. After a back-and-forth first half, the Eagles won, 53-40, over Marymount. Photo by Norm Shafer

The University of Mary Washington women’s basketball team entered the season with a sour taste in its mouth. It ended the 2010-11 campaign with a 20-6 record but lost in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals and missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.

Determined not to let that happen again, the veteran squad took each game of the 2011-12 season as if it were its last, and the results were historic.

Mary Washington completed the regular season undefeated at 25-0, its second undefeated slate in the past six years. It topped its two biggest rivals, Marymount University and York College, en route to the Capital Athletic Conference tournament championship.

Gaining one of the top seeds in the NCAA Division III Tournament, the Eagles hosted the first and second rounds in early March at the new Anderson Center, which was filled to near capacity for each game.

UMW opened its NCAA run by showing off its national-best defense, limiting visiting Keuka College to just six first-half points, toward a 39-32 victory. Katie Wimmer ’12 led the Eagles with 16 points. The Eagles bested all NCAA schools (Division I, II, and III) by limiting opponents to just 42.4 points per game. Led by Jenna McRae ’12, who scored 20 points, and the emergence of guard Amanda Witmer ’15, who netted 10 second-half points, the Eagles topped Messiah College 53-50 to advance to the sectional rounds for the fourth time in seven years.

Thanks to the new 52,000-square-foot Anderson Center and the team’s perfect 29-0 record, the Eagles hosted the sectionals for the first time ever the following weekend. Despite most students being out of town for spring break, the Eagles played before more than 800 fans in the semifinal against Lebanon Valley College, which was a 46-41 victory for UMW. In that game, McRae scored a game-high 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Eagles improved to 30-0. UMW saw its season come to a close with a loss to fellow undefeated George Fox University of Oregon in the sectional final, just one game shy of the final four, on March 10.

The Eagles’ 30-1 record is the highest winning percentage in school history, and the team’s advancement to the sectional finals is its second-best run in the NCAA Tournament. In addition to gaining all-conference and all-region accolades, McRae and Wimmer both closed their storied careers as two of only five players in the 42-year history of the program to surpass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, and 100 steals.