For the past two seasons, the Michigan women’s basketball team watched Selection Monday warily, uncertain of whether or not it would receive a berth in the NCAA Tournament’s field of 64.
On Monday, the Wolverines were in the same situation. The only difference was the result — an 11-seed in the Fresno region, finally a trip to dance.
The unfamiliar result from previous years was a nice change for the current group of seniors — Michigan coach Kevin Borseth’s first recruiting class.
“I wish you could’ve been in that room and seen the explosion of happiness and tears,” Borseth said. “It’s really been a long time coming for our program — in particular, our seniors, (who) have worked so hard to get us back in the NCAA Tournament.”
The seniors, especially guards Courtney Boylan and Carmen Reynolds, have been so close during the last two years to achieving the goal they’ve had since stepping foot in Ann Arbor, only to fall just short.
But after their freshman year — Borseth’s second with Michigan — the goal seemed out of reach. The Wolverines posted a 10-20 record, which is still the worst finish in Borseth’s tenure.
Boylan and Reynolds have become synonymous with the system that Borseth put into effect. He runs a motion-style offense that allows the players to make a lot of their own decisions and shoot often. They are the perfect model for this system, as both players are above-average 3-point shooters but are more than willing to bang around the paint as well.
“It really is incredible just thinking about everything that we have been through as a team over the past four years,” Boylan said. “Personally, all the work that you put in and all the time that you spent to make yourself better and your team better.”
Both players came in with promise but started out slow during their freshman year. Reynolds didn’t start a single game during that campaign, but still averaged 6.1 points per game. But she has started every single game (96) since the final game of the 2008 season and averaged a combined 10.4 points per game during that span.
Reynolds capped an impressive career this past season with two impressive feats. First, she reached 1,000 career points and later set the all-time record for 3-pointers made. Both accomplishments speak volumes about the consistency and production Reynolds has shown throughout her career at Michigan.
Boylan contributed during her sophomore year, but she really came into her own during her junior campaign. Then-sophomore guard Nya Jordan was sidelined early in the season with a torn ACL, and Boylan found herself in the starting lineup as a result. Since her debut as a consistent starter against Iowa on Jan. 1 of last year, she has scored 10.8 points per game — 4.1 more than her career average.
But along with their production on the court, both players have found themselves in leadership roles. And because of their leadership abilities, the rest of the team, particularly junior Jenny Ryan, felt a lot of pride as Michigan was announced in the tournament. The underclassmen understand what the seniors have been through to finally achieve a goal that’s been set their entire careers.
“I think you could see … their happiness and their joy, and that was probably one of the most special moments for me,” Ryan said. “I was never really here for the worst part of it, and they were. I can only imagine what that’s like to see (Michigan) take a complete 180 (degree turn). It means a lot for me and for them.”
Boylan, Reynolds and fellow senior Jamillya Hardley will only get one trip to the NCAA Tournament, but will always be known as the group that brought the Wolverines back to prominence. When Borseth recruited them, he knew he was getting good players, but probably not that those players would totally buy into his system and transform a then-faltering program.
“Our program has changed so much since coach Borseth came here, and we were a part of his (first) recruiting class,” Boylan said. “To be able to leave our footprint on the program means so much to us.”