Mavs’ magical season
CMU women's hoops team wants to build off last season's success
Taylor Wagner is a driven man. He’s driven by his seniors, driven to prove nay-sayers wrong. He’s especially driven by the desire to win a national championship.
It didn’t take long after he was hired in the summer of 2012 to realize his drive was met head-on by a team that wanted exactly what he did.
The result was the best season in the history of the women’s basketball program, the Mavericks’ first NCAA Division II regional championship and first appearance in the Elite Eight.
“Last year ... it was fun. It was great,” Wagner said. “If we could have gone a little deeper and gone to that championship game and given ourselves an opportunity to play for a national championship … That was a special team and a special group.”
Led by four seniors, two of whom, Kelsey Sigl and Katrina Selsor, ended up with a satchel full of conference, regional and All-America honors, CMU won its first 18 games last season.
After cracking the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association rankings in December, the Mavericks climbed until they reached No. 4, where they stayed for seven of eight weeks leading up to the national tournament.
They stumbled only once during the regular season, a 77-74 loss at Colorado Christian. Mesa avenged that loss in the RMAC tournament championship game, 60-47, in front of a packed house at Brownson Arena.
The next week, the Mavericks hosted the South Central Regional, winning the title in a thrilling 69-65 game over Midwestern State (Texas) in front of nearly 2,000 fans who were screaming so loud the players had trouble hearing each other on the court.
The dream season ended in San Antonio, Texas, when the Mavericks lost in the national quarterfinals to Dowling (N.Y.) College.
Last spring, Sigl signed a pro contract to play in France, where she’s the starting small forward for Al Aplemont Le Havre, averaging 10.6 points per game.
The four seniors from last season’s team have graduated, as has this year’s senior leader, Sharaya Selsor, who begins graduate school in January.
The RMAC coaches picked Mesa to finish second this season, which is driving this group even more. They’re ranked fifth in the nation entering 2014.
“I think for me what’s driving me is these six seniors here, to have them go out like we did last year,” Wagner said. “I’m focused on this year and trying to make sure we’re not just one-hit wonders. This is a program, it’s not just a team. It’s a program. We’re going to build it the right way and do things the right way.
“I think a lot of people wrote us off this year. That’s tucked in the back of my mind. I want to make sure these seniors have the year they want and go out the same way.”