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By Michael Eldridge | @DFWSportsMike
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With just four wins the previous season, there was little expectation to make history for a team with a dozen newcomers. But the reality was, the Lady Mavericks did.
Led by Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Rebekah VanDijk, UT Arlington women's basketball achieved a 17-win season, the largest turnaround in program history and the largest win increase in NCAA Division I last year. The 17-12 regular season record was good for a tie for fourth in the conference and led the Lady Mavs to their first postseason berth under second-year coach Krista Gerlich.
"I am going to call them overachievers," Gerlich said after this season. "Who would of thought that 12 new kids would have come in and instantly had 17 wins already. I am really proud of that. Even though we could of maybe had a few more, I am really proud of what they did."
"I am going to call them overachievers. Who would of thought that 12 new kids would have come in and instantly had 17 wins already. I am really proud of that. Even though we could of maybe had a few more, I am really proud of what they did."
UT Arlington coach Krista Gerlich
The freshmen impact was instant as UTA won in record-breaking fashion, posting a 90-32 victory for the largest home opening win in program history. VanDijk and fellow freshmen Cierra Johnson led the way, scoring 17 and 13 points, respectively. VanDijk would continue her momentum with seven consecutive double-doubles following the opener, including a run of double-digit scoring efforts in nine of the first 11 games.
Not to be outdone, senior Chaun Williams stepped into a role as UTA's sixth man. Williams finished second on the team with 9.0 points per game, and played played in all 30 games with just two starts. Williams thrived in her role and finished with 13 double-digit scoring efforts, including two 19-point games (career high).
With the success, the UTA records began to fall. VanDijk finished with the seventh-best season with 10.4 rebounds per game, a 55.7 field-goal percentage (third all-time) and 298 rebounds for seventh in single-season history. Johnson finished fourth in single-season history with 81 steals for the season, while junior LaShanda Green became the 10th player in program history to log more than 1,000 minutes in a season.
The Lady Mavericks finished the regular season with the 10th-best scoring defense in Division I by allowing just 53.2 points per game. VanDijk finished 17th with 15 double-doubles, leading all national freshmen. Her field-goal percentage was 16th overall. Johnson's 2.62 steals per game were 29th.
The 13-win increase from the previous season helped UTA gain national attention, as the team received a bid to the 2015 Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament this fall.