Before the 2010-2011 women's basketball season began, head coach Scott Hemer said that the ensuing months could be very "interesting."
After a season in which the Knights won 26 games, a SUNYAC title and an NCAA tournament game, "interesting" seems like something of an understatement.
"I'd have to say that my primary emotion is just how proud I am of not only what they did on the court this season, but how they represented the program, the college and each other," Hemer said after Geneseo's dream season finally came to an end at the hands of No. 4 Babson College.
After defeating DeSales University in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 62-51 on Friday, the Knights entered their second round matchup against Babson as obvious underdogs. The Beavers were a perfect 28-0 on the season; still, the Knights were up to the task.
"I don't think we were intimidated at all," Hemer said. "I don't think we've been intimidated by an opponent in over two months and I believe that our group believed in each other, believed in themselves and trusted what we were trying to do as a group."
In the opening half, the Knights had their opponent on the ropes, taking a 14-9 lead with just over 13 minutes remaining. The Beavers responded with an 11-2 run, closing out the half with a four-point lead.
"We had nothing to lose" said senior Alyssa Polosky, who had the job of containing the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference scoring leader, junior Nicki Wurdeman.
"I thought our game plan was actually a strong one," Hemer said. "We had decided that the strength of their team were the two post players, [Wurdeman] and [junior Kathleen King] and that we needed to focus on stopping them."
As the Knights focused on taking away touches from King and Wurdeman, they challenged Babson to beat them on the perimeter, but the Knights' demise came on the boards as they were out-rebounded, 45-32 for the game. In the second half, the Beavers slowly pulled away, winning 65-53.
"They simply destroyed us on the boards and it was those second chance opportunities that cost us the opportunity to advance," Hemer said. "In the long run, I think their size just got to us and wore us down inside … we've said all along, ‘no excuses' and I was proud of the team afterward because they didn't make excuses. They knew what our downfall was and we accepted it."
"I think there were mixed emotions, the players were obviously disappointed, but I do believe in my heart that in the long run this group was very proud of what they've done this year and they should be," Hemer said.
No matter what was on the scoreboard, the Knights walked off the floor champions in their own right, some of them tearfully closing the book on one of the most successful seasons in program history.
"I think part of their legacy will be the culture that they created, not just a winning culture, but a culture of family within the program," Hemer said. "They believed in each other and trusted each other and in the end those were the characteristics that guided this group to 26 wins."
The Knights ended their season with a 26-4 overall record, but perhaps most important was the fact that they did so in front of a loving and passionate home crowd.
"I don't think we could have won a lot of the games without the fans and they may not know that," Polosky said. "They created an energy that I don't think we could have created ourselves. The packed stands were something that I've never experienced in my whole career; it's just engraved in my head … I could not have asked for a better ending."