By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
Last week, the Musketeers lost to fellow conference bottom-feeder Providence by a final score of 50-48, their 16th consecutive conference loss dating back to last year. In three of the last seven games, they have lost by 35 points or more, and they have not won a game since the Crosstown Shootout. They have the worst shooting percentage in the conference, have lost every conference game this year by at least 14 points and are projected to go winless in conference play this season.
As a member of the X-Band, I have attended every single home game, men’s and women’s that has taken place outside of breaks. I watched this team blossom with a 6-1 start to the season and, more recently, fall to the lowest of lows everyone has expected them to be in. Under Coach Melanie Moore, Xavier has gone 24-71 and has an 8-51 record in Big East games.
This could easily be an indictment on Coach Moore or the players. But when the problems run this deep, the burden of the blame falls on the shoulders of the athletic department.
This is difficult to talk about, for reasons beginning with me not being a woman and knowing what the players and coaches are thinking off the court. Beyond this season, all I see are numbers and short highlight reels buried in the depths of the internet. And I think that the lack of care, or knowledge even, by people at Xavier is the most damning testament to how this program is being left to rot.
Look at every other sports program at Xavier. The men’s team has had sellout after sellout and is back at #13 on the AP Poll, the men’s soccer team was ranked #12 in the nation at one point, the women’s soccer team made it to the second round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, the baseball team made a run to the Big East Championship last season, the volleyball team made it to the Big East semifinals thanks to Carrigan O’Reiley, one of the best players in program history and the women’s golf team has won three straight Big East titles and is favored to win their fourth. And yet, through all of this success, the women’s basketball program has been jammed into a corner to be forgotten about, to hide the stain of ineptitude they leave on the athletics department instead of doing anything to fix it.
It shouldn’t have to be this way. Coach Moore may not be in her element at head coach, but she is someone that the team respects and rallies around. Mackayla Scarlett, Taylor Smith, Courtney Prenger, Kaysia Woods, Fernanda Ovalle, Shelby Calhoun, all of these players have incredible talent. And yet they are sentenced to a four-year purgatory where they practice, show up and get their asses kicked in conference play in front of about 500 people. Rinse and repeat and continue with no hope of ever getting a better shot to continue playing the sport they love outside of Xavier.
It’s hard to say what needs to be fixed, or even to pinpoint a step one. If Coach Moore walks, the athletics department will likely just fill the hole with the cheapest option on the market. And even if we continue to get talent into this program, who’s to say that there will even be an effort by the higher-ups to make this program anything beyond what it currently is. Maybe we win 15 Big East games in four years instead of 10, and the board members call it a net improvement while saving a few bucks to invest into the other programs that they care more about.
Let me reiterate. I am not placing the blame entirely on the women’s team and staff themselves, or being bitter about well-earned success from other athletic programs. But when every program goes through a rough spot, moves are made to fix them and bring back excellence except in this program. This is not just one bad season. This is four consecutive seasons where this team has never won more than ten games. Four years of genuinely talented players wasting away in a 10% capacity Cintas Center where the higher-ups have no interest in developing talent or giving them any hope to continue playing the sport they love. Stuck in a perpetual losing machine at the very bottom of the priority list of an otherwise excellent athletics program, with no regard for the players they recruit or the staff they employ.
When this program loses this much and nobody cares about it, it should be the job of the department to fix it. When students are wondering whether this program is even worth existing, that is a problem that any other competent athletics program should work to fix. At no point should a team with this level of talent be given this little of worth by the place that made them.
To all the players on this year’s team, I’m sorry you have to play for a university that doesn’t care about you. And I earnestly hope that things will one day get better. It’s the least you deserve.