While not earning a spot in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament was disappointing to the players of Seton Hall University, that quickly turned around when they won game after game in the WNIT, making it to the finals of that tournament, where the Pirates succumbed to a South Dakota State team playing before a home crowd.

“You’re home some of the games, so your fans get behind it and it electrified us,” said Seton Hall coach Anthony Bozzella. “In the semi-finals, we went to Middle Tennessee, which hasn’t lost all year at home and has over 5,000 fans at the game screaming and yelling at you, and you win that game. 

“Of course, our goal is the NCAA Tournament, but this year the players got tournament experience,” he continued. “The fans are now really excited for next year. … The greatest gift of being so successful in the WNIT tournament is our players are super motivated. So, when we play next year against Connecticut and we get some big crowds, our kids are so not fazed anymore.”

The WNIT provided an incredible showcase for Seton Hall junior guard Lauren Park-Lane, who time and again proved she should score over players nearly a foot taller than her. Bozzella described her as the heart and soul of the program.

“She does so many things to embody the program,” said Bozzella. “She’s tremendous with the fans and the media. She always gives a great effort in practice. Continually gets better. There’s not a kid who’s more competitive than she is. She enjoys playing basketball and she enjoys it at Seton Hall. Our growth and success coincided with her growth and success.”

Seton Hall defeated Columbia University in the quarter-finals, which Bozzella sees as the start of an exciting New York/New Jersey rivalry. “We brought our band, our dance team and our cheerleaders,” he said. “I enjoyed that game as much as any game I’ve ever coached. This was a great experience.”

The Pirates return four starters next year. Only guard/forward Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who has made an impact on the program, is graduating. WBCA did their final poll, and Seton Hall ranked 35th in the country. Bozzella told his players to continue working out, but he also wants them to enjoy the rest of the semester as college students. They earned it.

“We beat three teams in a row basically at the buzzer,” he said. “It was incredible.”

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