Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
The drought is over.
For the first time since 2006, Virginia Tech women’s basketball is going dancing.
It’s a complete turnaround for head coach Kenny Brooks, who has done a marvelous job in year No. 5 in Blacksburg. Brooks would’ve taken the Hokies (14-9, 8-8 ACC) to the postseason last year had there been an NCAA Tournament, but luckily, the monkey wasn’t on their back much longer.
It’s a complete 180 to get to the “Big Dance” after how the season started for Virginia Tech, but we’ll get back to that in a minute. Virginia Tech will head to the San Antonio bubble as a No. 7 seed, and will be matched up with 10th-seeded Marquette. The teams will square off at noon ET on ESPNU this Sunday from Texas State’s Strahan Arena.
The entire event will take place in the San Antonio metropolitan area with the Final Four to be showcased at the Alamodome. Virginia Tech is also one of just 26 schools around the country to make both the men’s and women’s tournament. It is the first time that has ever happened in program history.
Once considered laughingstocks in not only the ACC, but nationally, both Virginia Tech hoops programs are now here to stay when looking at the perspective of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s how the Hokies got here.
A Swing In Momentum
After a lot of hype surrounded the Hokies coming into the 2020-21 season, it wasn’t an ideal start.
Brook’s team started off 7-7 overall and 2-7 in the ACC. It looked like Virginia Tech was headed to yet another WNIT. That’s when the Hokies turned it around.
There was hope during Virginia Tech’s skid however, as the Hokies dropped games to then-No. 2 Louisville, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and then-No. 2 and eventual ACC champion NC State by just a combined 16 points. Virginia Tech then proceeded to rattle off six straight wins, including a victory over then-No. 2 NC State in a revenge game at Cassell Coliseum.
The upset served as the biggest win in program history. More importantly, it catapulted the Hokies’ run to the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia Tech then proceeded to beat another NCAA Tournament team in North Carolina, Pittsburgh, another tourney team in Syracuse, and Clemson. Virginia and Duke did not complete their 2020-21 seasons after opting out due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Hokies finished exactly where they were picked. They were seeded seventh at the 2021 ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
Virginia Tech opened the tournament with a second-round victory against No. 10 seed Miami, before falling to now back-to-back ACC champion NC State in the quarterfinals.
Selection Monday then came around, and you could feel the weight lifted off Virginia Tech women’s basketball’s shoulders. The Hokies now turn their attention to San Antonio and the Golden Eagles.
As another first in program history, the Hokies had two selections for first-team All ACC. Both forward Elizabeth Kitley and guard Aisha Sheppard earned the honor for Virginia Tech. They have solidified themselves as one of the most talented duos on the women’s side of college basketball.
Kitley has a basketball background with her dad, Ralph, playing for Wake Forest in the late 1980’s. And it shows.
The Summerfield, NC native averages a double-double with 18.5 points per game and nearly 11 rebounds. Sheppard averages a solid 18.3 points per contest.
The two are among the best players ever to play at Virginia Tech. Both can put up 30 points on any given night, and that showed too with their performances in big-time moments.
Freshman guard Georgia Amoore has also really made a name for herself running the show at the top of the key for the Hokies. The Australian deserves a lot of credit for Virginia Tech’s turnaround.
Amoore was stronger with the basketball and grew up as the year went along to help lead her team to the big dance. She averaged in double figures at 11.5 points per game.
Outside shooter Cayla King and Duke transfer Azana Baines also deserve a lot of credit for the Hokies’ success. D’asia Gregg and Da’Ja Green came on late in the season as well.
Alamo City Bound
Virginia Tech will now attempt to continue to make a national name for itself when it travels to San Antonio later this week to take on Marquette out of the Big East. The winner will advance to take on the winner of No. 2 seed Baylor and No. 15 Jackson State in the second round on Tuesday, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Stay tuned for full coverage of the Hokies and Marquette coming up this weekend as we strap in to watch Virginia Tech compete in its first NCAA Tournament in 15 years.