The Seton Hall women’s basketball team did not take a step back in the 2017-18 season, but the crushing defeat in the first round of the WNIT was not how the Pirates’ intended for it to finish.
“That was extremely, extremely, extremely disappointing,” coach Tony Bozzella said after the 75-57 defeat to Saint Joseph’s on March 14. “A lot of credit to Saint Joe’s. They certainly came in with a good plan and executed really well.”
Bozzella said the Pirates lacked the drive and tenacity that Saint Joseph’s played with during the game, which held the team back from making a run in the postseason tournament.
“I don’t understand how they can come out and play that much more passionate and physical, and with that much more energy than we did,” Bozzella said. “We were undisciplined, unfocused – the whole thing was a disaster.”
More than just the themes of the defeat, Bozzella will examine the entire season as he reevaluates the team during the offseason.
“After today, I’m going to need a couple days to sit back – to step back – and really make some decisions that are going to be very difficult; on how we play, what we do, and how we run our program,” Bozzella said.
There will be much for Bozzella to mull over and dissect as he prepares for next season. The Hall showed flashes of greatness that resembled recent success in prior seasons, but factors both within and distant from the team’s control plagued the Pirates.
“I thought the year has been up and down,” Bozzella said. “I’m disappointed that we lost some players for a variety of reasons. I’m disappointed that we didn’t defend like we did earlier in the year.”
The departure of graduate-transfer Donnaizha Fountain midway through the season left a lasting void on a young team, but her departure cannot be the only reason why the defensive intensity and effort tapered off later in the season.
With the bitter taste of defeat still fresh in his mouth following the WNIT loss, Bozzella did not stray from the abilities he knew his team possessed as he reflected on his expectations and their accomplishments.
“I’ll take the accountability for it, but I can’t play either,” Bozzella said. “At some point, we’re going to have to get a good marriage of this and figure it out. Sixteen wins and an NIT bid is great, but this program has much higher aspirations at this point.”
Bozzella remains adamant in the potential he saw for his team, and will likely stick to similar expectations on what can be achieved next year and what needs to be fixed. Aside from impact-senior JaQuan Jackson, Bozzella will have access to this year’s roster next season – barring any departures – as well as any incoming players.
For a second straight year, the team had many new faces playing serious minutes and in high-stress situations. Time away from games to go over principles should prove to be beneficial for Bozzella and his staff, as they move forward to next season.
“There’s no fool’s gold in the offseason,” Bozzella said. “We know how much we have to work on, and that’s only going to help us for next year.”
A tough non-conference schedule will test how the Pirates can regroup and grow during the offseason, as Bozzella spoke of games where the team will play on the road against UConn, UCLA and Princeton, as well as home games against Rutgers and Georgia Tech.
Bozzella sees a more challenging schedule as the road to true improvement and the ultimate way for the team to reach the potential he envisions for them, which includes another postseason appearance, only next time at a higher level.
“We don’t get a softer schedule,” Bozzella said. “We get a harder schedule because our expectations of this program are to be where are men are playing – in the NCAA Tournament.”
Kyle Kasharian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itskylekash.