UTSA women set to host Northern Colorado in the Postseason WNIT

Karen Aston. UTSA beat Charlotte 81-80 in double overtime in American Athletic Conference women's basketball on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Third-year UTSA coach Karen Aston has guided the program to its first berth in a national tournament in 15 years.- File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

For the first time since 2009, the UTSA women’s basketball team will play in a national postseason tournament.

The Roadrunners learned Sunday that they had been accepted into the Postseason WNIT. By Monday afternoon, it came to light that they would tip off the tournament at home. They’ll host the Northern Colorado Bears on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

To put it in perspective, most of the Roadrunners were in grade school the last time the program played beyond a conference tournament.

“I think I was seven and on the playground,” center Elyssa Coleman said.

Division I women’s basketball programs all over the country start offseason workouts in the summer in hopes of earning a bid to the 68-team NCAA Tournament, the most prestigious of all postseason destinations.

Beyond that, the 32-team WBIT is considered the next best destination, followed by the 48-team WNIT. Programs need to post winning records to be eligible, and the Roadrunners qualified on that front at 17-14, including 10-8 in the American Athletic Conference.

Last week, in the AAC tournament at Fort Worth, the Roadrunners won in the quarterfinals against South Florida and then lost by one in the semifinals to the East Carolina Pirates.

Even though the loss knocked UTSA out of contention for the AAC’s automatic bid to the NCAAs, UTSA coach Karen Aston says the WNIT invitation is “a huge step” for her program.

“The biggest reason that you play and you train, and (put in) all those hours starting in June is that you have a chance to experience postseason,” Aston said. “I know our players were a bit disappointed in how the conference tournament ended, a game that we thought we let get away, and it’s been kind of hard to get ’em out of that doldrum.

“But I think the excitement of knowing that they earned a chance to play in postseason is a big deal to them.”

It’s also a big deal for die-hard fans, who haven’t seen the Roadrunners in a national tournament in March since both the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

Both years, UTSA lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, meaning the team has a chance to make history with a victory that would be the program’s first.

Aston applauded UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos for putting up the bid to host a game.

“You know, that’s why I came here,” she said. “Because I think Dr. Campos is extremely committed to the whole athletic program. I think she’s committed to basketball. I think that she wants us in our program to grow, and this is a growth step..

“I told the players yesterday, as disappointed as I know they were in the outcome of the conference tournament, this is a required step.

“It is a step where you hang a banner and we get to look at that banner all year next year and know that, you know, we’ll remember the reasons why we didn’t make the NCAA. Those are required (steps). Some of our freshmen, their seasons last year (in high school) ended in the first of February and mid-March.

“That’s a good month’s experience that you have to have so that you know what it feels like.”

For most of the past decade, the Roadrunners were a sub-.500 program, in one stretch registering single-digit victory totals for five straight years. In 2020-21, the Roadrunners finished 2-18 and 0-14 in Conference USA.

Aston took over in 2021-22 and guided the team to a 7-23 record. Last season, with Jordyn Jenkins and Kyra White transferring in from Southern Cal, UTSA improved to 13-19. This year’s 17-win total is the most for the program since the 2008-09 team won 24 games.

White, a UTSA senior from Judson, said “it means everything” to help raise the standard of play.

“It’s just a testament to everybody in this gym right now,” she said. “From last April until now, just putting in the work, grinding day in and day out, and honestly just not taking no for an answer.”

Coming up

First round: Northern Colorado at UTSA, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Second round: Northern Colorado-UTSA winner vs. Wyoming, date and site TBA


Northern Colorado 15-15
UTSA 17-14

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