CSUâ€™s womenâ€™s basketball season came to a close in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament Wednesday night, ending their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign.
The Rams are unable to make the WNIT either, as they struggled with a difficult pre-conference schedule, failed to finish above .500 and did not finish the year in second place in their conference.
â€œThe thing Iâ€™m most proud of is that the players really hung in there,â€ Holt said. â€œI couldâ€™ve scheduled easy games and weâ€™d be in the (WNIT) probably, but we needed to know where we were and prepare ourselves for the conference. Iâ€™m just proud the kids showed a lot of character.â€
After starting the season 4-11, the Rams bounced back in MW play, winning eight of their first 10 conference games before losing three of their last four.
CSU had a chance to clinch the second spot in the MW in its last game of the season against UNLV, but the Rams could not hold off a late run by the Rebels, and instead clinched the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.
An area the Rams struggled with at times this season was relying on their younger players after a season-ending injury early on to starting point guard Amber Makeever, and frequent injuries during the year for Sam Martin and Kelly Hartig.
CSU had difficulties taking care of the ball, committing more than 20 turnovers per game for most of the season, and the Rams relied on freshman LaDeyah Forte to run the offense in place of Makeever.
â€œ(Forte) our freshman point guard has been playing for us and has grown so much this year,â€ Hayley Thompson said. â€œI think we have a bright future because we are so young.â€
CSU will return three of five starters next year and will keep its bench completely intact, providing experience they hope will benefit them in the future.
Next season, the Rams will lose seniors Hartig and Kim Mestdagh, who will both graduate in May.
â€œKim and Kelly are two kids that weâ€™re gonna really miss,â€ Holt said. â€œBut I think weâ€™ll get a lot of minutes and production out of kids who will be returning.â€
Mestdagh, the fourth-leading scorer in CSU womenâ€™s basketball history, saw the program go from a 10-21 record and a 4-12 record in-conference her freshman year, to a 13-17 record with a 9-5 record this year.
â€œItâ€™s just the best weâ€™ve played in four years,â€ said Mestdagh of the season. â€œThis is the highest weâ€™ve ended also in four years, so thatâ€™s really something to be proud of and be happy about.â€
So as another CSU womenâ€™s basketball season ends, the Rams will have to build on the pieces they have put together, and replace the ones they have lost in order to reach their goal of making the NCAA Tournament.
Womenâ€™s basketball Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.