One of the best seasons in University of South Dakota women’s basketball history came to an abrupt end on Thursday.
And not because of a loss.
The NCAA announced Thursday that the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are canceled because of the coronavirus, which has already affected numerous seasons and events across the sports landscape.
In other words, the nationally-ranked Coyotes (30-2) — who won the Summit League tournament championship on Tuesday — will not get a chance to compete in the ‘big dance.’
South Dakota ran through the Summit League regular season with an unbeaten 16-0 record and then won all three games in the conference tournament. The Coyotes were awaiting next Monday’s selection show to find out their opponent and location in the NCAA Tournament.
Suddenly, their season was over.
Head coach Dawn Plitzuweit was traveling outside of the state on Thursday, according to USD, but athletic director David Herbster provided a lengthy statement on the situation.
“These types of decisions don’t come lightly,” Herbster said.
“I completely understand the reason why we’re doing this in the interest of public safety, not only for our student-athletes and coaches, but for the fans and parents who may be in attendance.”
Earlier Thursday, Summit League commissioner Tom Douple had announced the suspension of all non-conference and conference competitions for all league members, home and away, through March 30.
It was the news from the NCAA, though, that ended USD’s basketball season.
“Nothing’s going to take away what they accomplished this year — the joy, the satisfaction and the accomplishments,” Herbster said. “But it certainly leaves loose ends hanging out there.”
The announcement also ended the careers of USD’s four seniors: Ciara Duffy, Taylor Frederick, Madison McKeever and Megan Bonar. Earlier Thursday, Duffy (a Rapid City native) had been named the espnW Mid-Major Player of the Year and was this season’s Summit League Player of the Year.
In addition to the basketball tournaments, the NCAA also canceled championships in every spring sport, including hockey, baseball and track. USD was preparing to send five athletes to this week’s NCAA Indoor Track & Field National Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
USD will continue to work with NCAA, Summit League, university and state leaders to determine its next steps, according to Herbster.
“Until then, our primary goal will never change, and that is taking care of our student-athletes and providing them every opportunity and every resources to be successful in or out of competition,” he said.