NCAA Tournament: History of Vermont women's basketball at March Madness

The Vermont Catamount women pose with the America East trophy after their 38-36 win over Albany in the championship game at Patrick Gym.

College basketball’s biggest stage: Meet the University of Vermont.

The UVM women's basketball team earned an automatic bid to March Madness after winning the America East Conference last week against Albany.

It’s the seventh tournament appearance for Vermont and first under coach Alisa Kresge. Vermont (25-6) holds a 17-game win streak, the longest since the 1992-93 season and fifth longest in the country. The Vermont men also made the Big Dance as UVM is one of just 25 schools to have both the men and women’s programs reach the tournament.

Let’s take a look at each of Vermont’s appearances in the dance:

NCAA Tournament: How to watch Vermont-UConn first-round game

Catamount men: Vermont basketball's history in March Madness

1992 NCAA Tournament

The Catamounts (29-1) entered the tournament as only the third team to complete a regular season unbeaten. Vermont, which gained national recognition by earning a spot on the Associated Press’ Top 25, snagged the nine seed and the right to travel to the Charles Smith Center in Washington to face No. 8 George Washington.

Under coach Cathy Inglese, Vermont led 32-15 in the first half, but a late GWU run cut the lead to just 12 and powered George Washington to a 70-69 final. Out of the intermission the Colonials went on a 20-6 spurt and pulled even at 42-all with 13:06 left. GWU connected on a foul shot with under a minute left as Vermont trailed 70-69 on Missy Kelsen’s triple. In the final seconds Vermont’s Maureen McCarthy dished to Sharon Bay, but Bay never saw the pass, leading to a UVM turnover and a devastating end to the Catamounts' first go in the tournament.

1993 NCAA Tournament

Vermont ran it back the next year, again entering the tournament perfect and with three double-digit wins in the NAC tourney. Led by Sheri Turnbull, Vermont (28-1) hosted Rutgers at Patrick Gym, where the Catamounts had won 36 in a row. But the backing of Catamount Country wasn’t enough as Vermont fell 80-74. A blizzard forced No. 9 Rutgers, the A-10 tournament champions, to travel by bus early for the sold-out contest.

Vermont led 29-17 in front of the 3,213 frenzied Catamount fans in attendance at halftime, but the Knights seized a 10-point lead with just over three minutes to play and sealed the game at the line. Turnbull finished with 15 points and Sharon Bay had 11.

1994 NCAA Tournament

The Catamounts completed the dynasty by winning the NAC tournament for the third straight year. This time directed by coach Pam Borton, No. 13 Vermont (19-11) traveled to New Jersey to face fourth-seeded Seton Hall. The Pirates won 70-60 behind Jodi Brooks’ 30-point performance. Brooks was 12 of 23 the floor to send Seton Hall to the second round as Vermont’s season ended in heartbreak for the third consecutive season. Sheri Turnbull scored 26 for the Cats, who closed within 66-60 with 59 seconds left.

2000 NCAA Tournament

Following a six-year layoff from the tournament, Vermont, coached by Keith Cieplicki, entered Lubbock, Texas as an 11 seed facing Tulane and All-American Grace Daley. Daley poured in 30 points and scored nine straight to will the Green Wave back into the lead (62-60) with 58 seconds left. Tulane held for a 65-60 win as Vermont was within minutes of an upset for the second time. Karalyn Church had 26 points for UVM, which had a 13-point lead with 12:26 to play.

After winning, Tulane coach Lisa Stockton told the Free Press: “We feel very fortunate to be playing on Monday because Vermont is a very, very good team. I really learned tonight what survive and advance means in the NCAA Tournament.”

Vermont (25-6) won the America East title after wins against Drexel, Northeastern and Maine.

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2009 NCAA Tournament

At the tail-end of Sharon Dawley’s tenure with Vermont, the Catamounts finished third in the America East but secured an auto-bid to the tournament after knocking off Boston University in the title game. UVM (21-12) was tagged with a 16 seed and took on top-ranked Connecticut in the midst of the Huskies reign in the NCAA. The results were to be expected as UConn won 104-65 and raced to the national championship. The 65 points that UConn yielded was the fourth most that the powerhouse allowed that season.

Dawley told current Free Press sports writer Alex Abrami: “I expected speed and athleticism, but it was even more than I expected.”

Seniors Andrea Cihal from Calgary and Sarah Madey, of North Country, played their final game for the Catamounts. The pair were two of six seniors that turned around the program from their freshman season.

2010 NCAA Tournament

In Dawley’s swan song, Vermont (27-7) blazed a path through the America East, losing just three times. UVM routed Albany and Boston University in the conference tournament before edging Hartford in Connecticut by five points.

The automatic bid landed Vermont a 10 seed as the Cats traveled to South Bend, Indiana to face seventh-seeded Wisconsin. The Catamounts admitted that 2009 was about the experience and Vermont leader May Kotsopoulos began the 2010 season with the goal of an NCAA Tournament win. And Vermont achieved that goal.

Courtnay Pilypaitis collected 25 points and eight rebounds and Kotsopoulos added 14 leading to a 64-55 final over Wisconsin. Alissa Sheftic of Essex added seven points and four assists. The triumph led Vermont to the second round, where it faced No. 2 Notre Dame, for the first time.

Against the Fighting Irish, future WNBA star Skylar Diggins struck for a career-high 31 points over 33 minutes as Notre Dame upended Vermont’s tournament run 84-66 in front of 6,085. All five of Vermont’s starters scored in double figures. The loss capped careers for a stellar senior class (Pilypaitis, Kotsopoulos, Sheftic and Sofia Iwobi).

“This senior class is one of the most successful in the history of the program, and that is what we will keep reflecting back on,” Dawley said then. “I’m upset that I won’t get to coach these four seniors again. They’re winners and I would not want to go to battle with anyone else other than these four.”

2023 NCAA Tournament

Can Vermont capture that Cinderella magic of the 2010 squad? UVM faces Connecticut on Saturday, March 18.

Contact Jacob Rousseau at Follow on Twitter: @ByJacobRousseau

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: History of Vermont Catamount women's basketball at NCAA March Madness