Michigan women's basketball raises first ever banner
For the first time ever, a banner hangs in Crisler Center for the Michigan women’s basketball team.
“It was a really emotional night,” said coach Kim Barnes Arico. “It’s a really special thing. It was a great night to celebrate Michigan women’s basketball.”
Prior to Michigan’s 75-61 victory in its season opener against George Mason, the Wolverines celebrated their 2017 postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship by raising a banner to the rafters. Last March, Michigan secured its title after rattling six wins, including a triple overtime victory over Georgia Tech in the championship game.
And while a WNIT title certainly doesn’t hold the same allure as an NCAA championship, it’s a start.
“It definitely (makes us hungry) for an NCAA banner or a Big Ten banner,” said senior guard Katelynn Flaherty. “That’s something I’ve wanted since I came here and that’s something everyone comes here for.”
Teammates such as junior Hallie Thome seconded that sentiment. While the goal has always been for conference and national success, last season’s accomplishments have the Wolverines realizing their potential — that this season can be something special.
And the emotions of the night’s festivities carried over into the game.
“It kind of gave us momentum going into this game,” Flaherty said. “It’s awesome just to be a part of that history is great. It reminded us of last year and the NCAA Tournament thing. It just shows how well we did last year and we want to do even better this year.”
Michigan returned four of five starters from last year’s team and they picked up where they left off. The Wolverines started the game on a 9-2 run and didn’t look back from there. Last season’s two leading scorers, Flaherty and Thome, did what they always do – score. The duo had 29 and 15 points, respectively.
Seeing the banner go up didn’t just motivate the returning players, but also set the precedent for those playing their first games in the maize and blue.
“It really fired up our freshman as well,” Barnes Arico said. “Turning and looking at them, they said, ‘Coach, we’re going to get another one of those banners. We’re going to get a Big Ten championship banner. We’re trying to get an NCAA championship banner.’”
Something that made the night even more special was a visit by now graduated point guard Siera Thompson. With Danielle Williams on staff as a graduate assistant, the entire 2016-17 roster was in attendance. Barnes Arico pointed out that having the two there made the night even more special.
But, last year’s success doesn’t warrant anything for this season. Thome made that much evident.
“Coach made it clear that was last year’s team,” she said, “and this year we have to establish ourselves.”