There is just one basketball team in this city that has won more than 20 games in each of the past seven seasons.
Your first guess might be the obvious: Jamie Dixon’s Pitt Panthers. But they won only 19 last year. The correct answer is the Duquesne Lady Dukes. Only 18 other women’s programs in the country have that kind of winning consistency. Head coach Dan Burt has picked up where Suzie McConnell-Serio left off in 2013, when she left Duquesne to become head coach at Pitt. Burt is 43-24 in two seasons. And replacing a legend isn’t easy. Just ask Milo Hamilton when he replaced Bob Prince, Bill Cowher when he took over for Chuck Noll, or Ronnie James Dio when he attempted to fill Ozzy Osbourne’s shoes.
- Photo by Heather Mull
- Mike Wysocki
Burt might one day become the most famous graduate of West Liberty University (an honor that currently belongs to bro-country superstar Brad Paisley). He’s already proven to be a master recruiter. This year’s class was rated 52nd in the nation, not bad for a little school on the Bluff. Duquesne’s leader hails from Washington, Pa., and made stops at UNC-Wilmington, West Virginia and Bucknell before taking over the Dukes. Last season, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the team had the most conference wins in team history. It even beat McConnell-Serio’s Panthers in the city game. That’s huge. That would be like Daniel beating Mr. Miyagi in the All-Valley Karate Tournament.
The 2015-16 Lady Dukes have seven freshmen on the roster and a decidedly international flavor. Eniko Kuttor joins the team from Budapest, Hungary (a city founded in 1 A.D.). Kadri-Ann Lass is a 6-foot-3-inch forward from Estonia. (I don’t even know where that is.) Juca Vojinovic played for the Serbian National team, and Angela Staffileno comes from the most exotic locale of all: Wellsburg, W.Va. Other freshmen include Chassidy Omogrosso, from Blackhawk High School (the Beaver County Times Athlete of the Year), Paige Cannon from Johnstown, Ohio, and Connor Richardson from Carlynton. Basically, half the roster attended their high school proms last spring.
So, who’s left from the team that just missed making the NCAA tourney last year? April Robinson is a dean’s-lister and an Atlantic 10 Commissioners honor-roll student who can drop three-pointers all day. (Fact: She hit 87 treys last season.) Fellow senior Emilie Gronas was second in the A-10, shooting 44 percent from behind the three-point line. The Norwegian sensation combines with Robinson in the backcourt. Amaeda Szamosi, another Hungarian player, shot 53 percent from the floor, good enough for second in the conference. Senior Deva’nyar Workman, from Reading, Pa., scored 21 points off the bench in the city game last year. And Brianna Thomas, the team’s lone Canadian, adds depth. Basketball is cool in Canada, unlike their stupid three-down football and even stupider bacon.
The Duquesne Lady Dukes are proven winners, and tickets to see them play at the Palumbo Center can be had for as little as $3. They just might be the most consistently successful program in the entire city. The home opener is set for Nov. 24 against Howard. That’s followed by visits from North Carolina A&T, Maryland-Eastern Shore (I hate them so much) and Ohio University. On Dec. 15, they host Slippery Rock, or Slippy Rock, if any of the international students are reading this. (It’s how we talk in Pittsburgh.) And Dec. 30, the Lady Dukes defend their title as City Champions when they take on Pitt.