PHILADELPHIA | Georgetown's run in the NCAA women's basketball tournament ended earlier than it would have liked.
Yet in many ways, things are just getting started for the Hoyas.
Georgetown will return all but one player from a 24-11 team coming off only the second appearance in the round of 16 in program history, a post-season run halted with Sunday's 68-63 loss to Connecticut in the Philadelphia Regional semifinals.
"This loss hurts and it sucks we have to lose Monica McNutt, because she's a great leader," junior forward Tia Magee said. "But we'll have four returning starters and we have some great freshmen coming in. I feel like next year, it's only going to get better. We're only going to become a better team, stronger and more mature. We'll have [six] seniors next year. I think next year is our year."
There isn't much reason to think otherwise. The Hoyas have won 20 games in three straight seasons, surpassing the combined two 20-win seasons from the program's first 38 years. Georgetown beat Tennessee once and Maryland twice this season, including an emphatic rout of the Terrapins in College Park in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Along the way, coach Terri Williams-Flournoy and her team seized upon slights real and perceived, eventually leading UConn deep into the second half before a five-minute lull cost the Hoyas their chance to pull off one of the tournament's most memorable upsets.
The Huskies' rally will undoubtedly stick with players who were part of Georgetown's first back-to-back NCAA appearances. But the other 35 minutes meant something as well, and will likely ensure the Hoyas aren't underestimated going forward.
"We were no longer the underdog this year," Williams-Flournoy said. "We had the year we had last year and everybody knew what we're going to do. We came out expecting people to come at us. It was no longer 'Oh, by the way, that's Georgetown.' We've put our program in the top 25 and we've stayed in the top 25 all year long. I'm very proud of my young ladies, and no, we will never be the underdog ever again."
It helps to have some star power returning, too.
Sugar Rodgers, who led Georgetown in scoring (18.9) and steals (2.6), has two years of eligibility remaining. Magee, the Hoyas' top rebounder who is undersized for a center but perfectly suited for Georgetown's frenetic style of play, will also be back. So, too, will point guard Rubylee Wright, who averaged nearly five assists a game.
"This program, if you don't believe us now, you need to put us on your schedule," McNutt said. "This program is serious. This program is legit."
And it plans on making deep tournament runs a common occurrence rather than a rare blip.
"This," Rodgers said, "Is just the beginning for our program."
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