When the University of Toledo women's basketball team lost to MAC Tournament champion Western Michigan in Cleveland about a week ago, and saw its hopes of playing in the NCAA Tournament dashed, a reporter asked Rocket senior Teresa Kahle to reflect on what appeared to be the end of her career.
Wait just a minute, Kahle cautioned, what about the NIT?
Kahle knew what she was talking about, and she and the rest of the Rockets play host to Marquette tonight in a first-round game of the National Invitation Tournament. The Rockets, who have been to the NCAA Tournament seven times, make their fifth appearance in the NIT.
“In any endeavor, you don't always get exactly what you want, but you have to savor what you do get,'' Toledo coach Mark Ehlen said. “We may not be in the NCAA, but we feel good about what we have accomplished and feel this is another great opportunity.''
Ehlen's team takes a 20-9 record into the NIT despite playing the last nine games without senior Tia Davis, a first-team All-Mid-American Conference player who was lost when she tore up her knee in early February.
“A lot of teams are done playing - and that's what we told the team,'' Ehlen said. “For this group to do what it did, without Tia Davis, that's pretty good. We lost by a basket to the eventual champion in the conference tournament. We're happy to be here and I'm proud of the kids - we'll see how far we can take it from here.''
Ehlen said he is pleased with the development of 6-3 sophomore Karin Hoogendam, who averaged 16 points, 11.5 rebounds, and two blocks per game in the MAC Tournament. She had 22 points and 14 rebounds against Western Michigan.
“Last year at this time, I think Karin was really nervous as a freshman, but what a big jump she has made as a sophomore,'' he said. “She not only played well in our last game in Cleveland - she really dominated the game.''
Ehlen said he expects Marquette to spread things out and run a motion offense, and mix it up and trap on defense. He said that after looking at film of the Golden Eagles, their 15-13 record appears to be deceiving.
“They do some things we haven't seen this year,'' Ehlen said. “When you look at their record, your knees don't shake, but when you look at their schedule, your knees start to shake because you know they've been tested game after game.''
The Marquette staff includes former Rocket Jenny Markwood (1996-2000) as an assistant. Markwood played a season of professional basketball in France before starting work with the Golden Eagles prior to last season.