Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico has said it many times in postgame interviews this season, but none of those instances had the bravado like the exclamation she made when she entered the media room Wednesday night.

It was the emotion of a coach whose team has been put through the wringer, but is inches from getting a taste of salvation.

The Wolverines’ WNIT semifinal matchup against Villanova was perhaps the most significant game in Michigan women’s basketball history, and the Wolverines made it look like clockwork to advance to their first WNIT title game.

The contest wasn’t without its hiccups. Up 15 at one point in the final quarter, Michigan saw its margin dwindle to as little as four, but Barnes Arico’s team willed its way to maintain a 65-61 victory. At the final buzzer, the team was hopping and skipping in jubilation before it waved to the crowd and entered the tunnel.

Regardless of what happens in the Wolverines’ championship matchup Saturday, they have had their best season in program history, and are riding the momentum of their biggest win to date. But even if you were at Crisler Center on Wednesday, you would hardly know just how important it was for them to get over a hump that has halted them in the past.

Michigan has fallen short the previous two seasons in the WNIT semifinals, with losses to UCLA and Florida Gulf Coast. Disappointment is something that has been all too familiar for the Wolverines this season — headlined by missing out on the NCAA Tournament — but as junior forward Jillian Dunston put it, “determination” trumped nerves to overcome the semifinals hurdle.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Barnes Arico said. “For the disappointment that we have gone through, and for our kids to rally and get past the game and the opportunity to play in a championship game — It’s really special.”

Determination and disappointment beget the litany of goals that Michigan has sought since the March 13 selection show: proving the NCAA selection committee wrong, and most importantly, winning for the seniors.

“The NCAA selection committee made a mistake,” Barnes Arico said. “We thought that on the night of the selection show and hopefully we are showing them that they did.

“Our team has rallied behind (senior guards Danielle Williams and Siera Thompson). They have raised the level of their game another notch. They’re going out with everything they have. One more day, one more opportunity to put on that Michigan uniform. … It’s really special for our seniors and it’s special for our whole program. Each year they’ve been able to do things that haven’t been accomplished the year before.”

On Saturday, the Wolverines will face a familiar opponent in Georgia Tech — who they beat on the road by 40 points on Dec. 1 — in unfamiliar championship territory. History tells us that Michigan will have no trouble against the Yellow Jackets, and if the Wolverines do become WNIT champions, then they could look ahead to next season having written a new chapter of history.

“If you look around Crisler there is not one (banner) in there for women’s basketball. And that has been one of our goals,” Barnes Arico said. “To all our alumni, to anyone who’s been involved in our program, for them to walk into Crisler and see a banner for women’s basketball’s success would just be a special moment for our entire program.”

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