After a 2013 season that saw the TAMIU women's basketball team fall one win short of the Heartland Conference Tournament, much was expected of this years squad but an NCAA tournament seemed a long shot.
In the previous three seasons the TAMIU women won a total of 12 conference games, but early on you could tell this year was different. The Dustdevils started the conference season n9-1 including a win over arch rival St. Mary's and were well on their way to bringing home their first Heartland Conference championship. One of the biggest factors is second year head coach Michelle Bento Jackson, who has done a complete 180 with the program.
"Coach Bento changed my life from losing all the weight I had coming in here and just teaching me how to play hard and aggressive the whole 40 minutes." (Malika Jackson, Dustdevil Center)
"She pushes us everyday so from the beginning I knew all our hard work was going somewhere." (Stella Ghazarian, Dustdevil Shooting Guard)
For Bento-Jacksons part, even she is a little shocked at the sudden success.
"I've been pleasantly surprised that we have progressed as quickly as we have, would I have thought we'd be conference champions in the second year? Probably not just knowing how much needed to be done."
In a tournament field littered with big names of Division II Womens basketball, don't think the Dustdevils are just happy to be there.
"We're motivated to push each other so much harder, this week we've been going so much harder at each other."
"We're coming in as the underdogs and I'd rather be the underdogs because they're more hungry, more humble and have more heart."
"The next goal is to win this week and to take it all. Obviously one game at a time but that's our goal."
The women will get their chance to take step one of six towards their ultimate goal of a national championship Friday afternoon against Tarelton State. That game will tip off at noon on the campus of West Texas A&M in Canyon Texas.