Friday, March 15, 2002

UC Women: For Pirtle, tourney was season-long

Coach has had UC in March mind-set

By Gary Estwick,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Knowing her team had the talent to qualify for the NCAA Tournament this season, coach Laurie Pirtle started mentally preparing the University of Cincinnati for postseason play two months ago.

        During the Bearcats' Conference USA schedule, Pirtle treated every two games as if it were a tournament game: if the team won a Friday game, it would get to play Sunday.

        Of course, a regular-season conference loss wouldn't have ended UC's season. A loss in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, though, will.

        The No.6-seeded Bearcats (26-4) play 11th seed St.Peter's (25-5) Saturday in the first round in Columbia, S.C. Tipoff is 6:30p.m.

        “We responded really well,” Pirtle said. “I'm really trying to get them to think about one game at a time. Because you can't get anywhere until you accomplish that first goal.”

        Pirtle's postseason preparation has the young Bearcats ready to focus on St.Peter's. Their reward for beating the Peahens? The winner of No.3 South Carolina and No.14 Liberty in the second round at 7:35p.m. Monday.

        “It's pretty much been a tournament situation for a couple of months,” senior forward Laura Wilder said. “Mentally, we've been preparing for it.”

        UC is 0-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, but Wilder is the only player with NCAA Tournament experience (1999). UC has qualified for the Women's NIT every year since.

        During Pirtle's two months of postseason preparation, the Bearcats have started a 13-game winning streak and have not lost since Jan.20, against Houston (89-78).

        ETC.: Pirtle said Tuesday she is not interested in the head coaching vacancy at Ohio State, her alma mater. Pirtle, a Columbus native, said she has not been contacted by OSU.

        “I have no plans to leave,” Pirtle said. “This is a great situation.”

        OSU announced on March 4 that athletics director Andy Geiger would not renew the contract of coach Beth Burns.

        Pirtle played at OSU from 1976-80.


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