UNF women’s hoops hungry for title after historic 2019 campaign

Zach Yearwood, Sports Reporter

Video by: Zach Yearwood

Featured image by: Darvin Nelson

A gloomy aura surrounded the locker room after the UNF women’s basketball team dropped it’s final home game of the season. The loss to Lipscomb marked their fifth in just six games. 

“It’s tough. It’s a lot of sleepless nights… banging your head against the wall,” head coach Darrick Gibbs said about February’s stretch of losses that likely felt endless. 

At the beginning of the month, the team was flying high at second place in the ASUN. By the end of it, they were fighting for postseason play.

No one had much to say following the game. With only two games remaining before the postseason, something needed to change quickly.

Two weeks later, the team celebrated in a locker room in Swisher Gymnasium after a road playoff win against the rival JU Dolphins.

The win carried significance for multiple reasons.

Not only did it send the Ospreys to their third consecutive conference semifinal, but it also secured the team it’s second-straight winning season – a first for the program since moving up to Division I in 2005. They finished with a 16-15 record (8-8 ASUN).

To add icing on the cake, that was the second time this season that the Ospreys defeated the Dolphins. Before this year, the last time the UNF women’s basketball program beat JU was January 19, 2013. The last time they won the River City Rumble twice in a year was in 2011.

Gibbs had never defeated JU since he arrived at North Florida. He believed the wins were a big step in the right direction for the program.

“You talk about a rivalry. It’s not really a rivalry unless it’s back and forth,” Gibbs said. “We’ve been successful getting the barrel and keeping the barrel at UNF. Unfortunately, in the past, we didn’t have any part of that… So that was a big deal from that standpoint.”

The team’s historic season was ended in the next game by the juggernaut of the conference, FGCU. The final game of the tournament was ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19.

Some of the team’s other accomplishments this season include setting the school record for three-pointers made in a single season (211), scoring a program-high 110 points against Warner and defeating Rider, who polled eleventh among mid-major schools.

They also finished among the top 100 schools in the country in blocked shots (62), rebounding (78) and three-point shooting (88 in three-pointers made and 34 in three-point percentage).

Jazz Bond proved herself as a star on and off the court. On top of setting school records for blocks in a career, season and single game, the junior was named to the ASUN All-Conference Second Team and the All-Academic Team.

The team will be saying goodbye to four seniors: Dasha Eremeeva, Victoria Patrick, Janesha Green and Adrienne Jackson.

Jackson was the first player to complete all four years with Gibbs as head coach.

Gibbs and the Ospreys have high hopes for next season, as they should. The team has a strong core in Jazz Bond and Tiffany Tolbert, along with several returning role players.

In light of the loss of four experienced players who combined for over 2000 career points, the coach is looking for the next person to step up to the challenge.

One player that will likely take on a more impactful role for the team is Rhetta Moore. As a freshman, she walked onto the team and did not see much playing time. Two years later, she earned a scholarship and contributed key minutes and even started a few games.

Gibbs had high praises for Moore’s commitment to improving and her positive, team-oriented attitude.

“It’s a testament to her work and her will to be able to contribute. No matter what her role has been since she’s been here, she’s embraced it and she’s tried to find a way to be great at it while continuing to get better,” Moore said.

The returning cast will be joined by some new faces as well. The Ospreys’ scouting and recruitment efforts were not slowed by COVID-19. In the last week, the team announced that they will be bringing on five freshmen next year.

With Bellarmine joining the ASUN next year and some of the top teams losing several seniors, the conference will likely be more competitive than ever. 

Next season, the Ospreys will look to pick up where they left off and take their success to the next level by bringing a conference championship to the University of North Florida.

__

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].