Donna Capps trekked through the lower levels of the University of Southern California’s Galen Center, past a tunnel of blue curtains, before emerging at the media interview room.
Moments before she stepped to the podium to address reporters following the Mavericks’ 58-50 loss to Texas A&M in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, she looked over and said, “We played so hard. I don’t think I could have asked for any more [from the team].”
The game symbolized what the then-head women’s basketball coach had spent seven seasons building—a program that can compete with any in the country.
Capps and company went on to prove that their 2005 tournament berth was no one-hit wonder. The Mavericks made school and conference history after a 24-9 season that saw them return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.
They won a Southland Conference-record 19 straight games, rolling through the regular season at 16-0. They won all but two games by 13 or more points en route to their third straight 20-plus win season.
Among Texas schools since 2003, only Baylor (111) and TCU (88) have more victories than UT Arlington’s 87. The Mavericks have more wins than in-state basketball powers Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, SMU, Houston, Rice and any school in the SLC.
UT Arlington will continue to work on the program without the architect. Capps resigned in April to be the girls athletic director in the Mesquite Independent School District.
“It was rewarding to see our seniors develop and mature for four years and become leaders and skilled basketball players,” she said. “When I think of this season, I want to think of all the players who sacrificed and overcame adversity to make this such a special year.
“Our pre-conference schedule was kind of a make it or break it. I knew when we beat teams like [Arkansas] Little Rock, Northern Arizona and Ole Miss that our kids had bought into the defense and we were for real. Our kids had worked on their offensive skills to the point you couldn’t leave anyone unguarded.”
Individually, senior Terra Wallace will be remembered as one of the top players in school history. A graduate of Austin Leander High School, she became the program’s career scoring leader (1,751 points) and was named all-SLC for the third consecutive season. The league’s player of the year as a junior, Wallace was invited to the WNBA’s pre-draft camp in late March and has been in negotiations to play professionally overseas.
“We were the only Division I program really seeking Terra when she was in high school,” Capps said. “This year I had Big 12 coaches, SEC coaches tell me she could play [in their leagues] because of her knowledge of the game. She took the knowledge that is offered to all players and went to work and made herself better.”
After losing to UT San Antonio in triple overtime of the 2006 SLC Tournament, starting forward Ashley Bobb decided her professional career could wait. She graduated in May 2006 with an advertising degree, but with one year of eligibility left she opted to pursue another degree so she could play on this year’s team.
“[The season] was the cherry on top of my collegiate career,” said Bobb, who played three seasons at UT Arlington after transferring from Texas Tech. “Nothing is better than 19-0. No one can touch that. We dominated the conference all season, and we gave A&M a run for their money. I wasn’t ready to leave the team because the year before did not end the way I wanted it to.”
Capps passes the baton to new head coach Samantha Morrow (see "Morrow selected to lead women's basketball program") with the cupboard stocked. Returning are all-conference guard Maryann Abanobi, all-SLC Tournament center Tiffeny Riles and up-and-comers like forward Erin Dixon and guard Meghan Nelson.
http://utamavs.cstv.com (UT Arlington Athletics)
— Bill Petitt
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