Sports: So Close

June 1, 2006
Team spirit: Coach Gail Goestenkors gives pep talk during NCAA championship game

Team spirit: Coach Gail Goestenkors gives pep talk during NCAA championship game. Jon Gardiner

On April 4 the Duke women's basketball team ended its season in dramatic fashion, losing to Maryland 78-75 in overtime of the National Championship game after leading by as many as thirteen points during the second half of the game and three points with only seconds left on the clock in regulation.

This was the Duke women's second National Championship game--the first ended in a loss to Purdue in 1999--and left the team at 31-4 for the season.

This year's Blue Devils featured three seniors-- Monique Currie, Mistie Williams, and Jessica Foley, all of whom were selected in the WNBA draft the day after the championship game. It also saw strong performances from juniors Lindsey Harding and Alison Bales, sophomores Wanisha Smith and Chante Black, and freshman guard Abby Waner.

The team spent most of the season ranked in the top two in the nation and surprised top-ranked Tennessee 75-53 at home on January 23. They lost to archrival North Carolina twice, but finished the regular season 12-2 in the ACC before losing to Maryland in the second round of the conference tournament. The Blue Devils set a team record for assists in a season, with 717. Bales, who put up a strong showing in the NCAA tournament, ended the season with 283 career blocks, the most in Duke history.

In the tournament, the team racked up convincing victories against Southern, the University of Southern California, and Michigan State before winning in overtime against perennial powerhouse Connecticut to advance to the Final Four in Boston. In its semifinal game, the team defeated Louisiana State 64-45, avenging a loss in last year's Elite Eight--as well as the men's team's Sweet Sixteen defeat this year.