By Gretchen Beyer
The Daemen University women’s basketball team continued their winning ways during the 2022-23 season. The team won the ECC championship for the second time in back-to-back years, an impressive feat after finishing the season 20-5 and 13-3 in conference play.
The Wildcats returned two seniors in Mickayla Ivy and Marina Maerkl, and they added graduate student Paige Emborsky. In addition to the three seniors, the team also consists of seven juniors, one sophomore, and four added freshmen.
“Our team this year was on a mission. We made a collective decision that we wanted to prove everyone wrong, and make everyone believe,” Maerkl said, “We pride ourselves on being the team that worked and worked harder than whoever they faced.”
Hard work was evident throughout their season. Aside from their final loss of the season, the team only allowed their opponents to score, at most, 68 points against.
With all the new faces added to the team in the fall, team chemistry and leadership were crucial.
“This team is full of gritty and hardworking girls. We love to bring that energy whenever we step onto the court and use it to push each other and have fun,” said junior forward Natalie Angeletti.
Aside from two exhibition games against University at Buffalo and University of Michigan, the Wildcats started their season 6-0 with their first loss coming at the hands of St. Thomas Aquinas College in overtime. Their two other conference losses came on Jan. 17, 2023 and Jan. 21, 2023 to D’Youville and the University of the District of Columbia, respectively.
“After the losses, we met as a team and collectively defined our team. We established what our overall goals were and how we wanted to be remembered. A successful basketball team has players on every level that has to be willing to give 100% into his or her role in order to accomplish our overall goal as a team, and that was to bring another championship title back to Daemen,” Maerkl said.
The team’s next loss didn’t come until they were eliminated in the NCAA tournament on March 10, 2023, 48 days later. These 48 days consisted of 10 consecutive wins, including one of the conference championship. That victory itself is what allowed the women to continue playing in hopes of a national championship.
The team got together the week before the game to have a “watch party” to find out where and who they were playing in the Big Dance. They later found out that their opponent would be the Lady Rams of Jefferson University.
“I just think it came down to shot selection and controlling the pace. I feel as if we let the other team take us out of what we did best, and forced us to take contested shots. It was a combination of different things but the important thing is that those games are the moments in basketball you learn from and get better at,” Maerkl said.
The team has graduated several seniors including Maerkl and lights out shooter Paige Emborsky following the 2023 season, but workouts for next season have already started.
“Next year’s team is fully prepared to be put in that situation again, where both teams make their runs, but respond and bounce back stronger,” Maerkl said.