Road-weary Utes can't quite cap journey with a WNIT title
Philadelphia • Three weeks ago, if someone had told star forward Michelle Plouffe that the Utah women's basketball team would play well into the month of April, she wouldn't have believed them.
If they had told her the Utes would do it despite racking up nearly 7,000 airline miles, close to 20 hours on bus rides and with wins in four hostile environments, she would have asked them to take a psychiatric evaluation.
But there the Utes were Saturday, taking on Drexel for the WNIT championship, thanks to an improbable stretch of five wins, four of them on the road.
"It has been quite a journey," Plouffe said after the 46-43 loss. "Even though we traveled, every game we have played has been a whole different experience, a whole different crowd to play in front of and against. We went to overtime twice and came out with wins. We had so much fun."
In the postgame news conference, a reporter suggested to Utes coach Anthony Levrets that dealing with Drexel's crowd of 1,922 was tough.
"It wasn't tough at all. It was fun," he said. "Traveling 7,000 miles and being in every airport from here to Salt Lake City over the last three weeks, now that is tough. â¦ We haven't had a direct flight in a month. That has been really, really hard, but it was a great opportunity for our kids to build a special memory together that they are never going to forget."
Utah fans in Philly
The crowd at the Daskalakis Athletic Center included about 20 red-clad Utah fans.
Tacy and Bob Pettibone, who relocated last November from Sandy to Springfield, Pa., made a catchy sign and showed up to support the Utes, whom they supported at every game when they lived in Utah.
Their grandson, Zac Arthur, plays against the Utes in practices to get the team ready for conference play.
Drexel coach Denise Dillon said Utah was one of the better teams Drexel has defeated this season. "They've got some incredible players," she said. "They are a lot like us." â¦ Taryn Wicijowski went 4 for 6 for nine points and also had nine rebounds, but Drexel outscored Utah 22-14 in the paint.