For a long time Virginia Tech did not make it easy on the Cards. Every time it seemed like Louisville might break things open the Hokies whittled away the lead. However the Cards seemed determined tonight to not have the same mental lapses in the second half that led to losses this season. They came out to start the half blazing. Virginia Tech called a timeout at 7:30 in the third quarter to regroup but today the Cards would not fold so easily. Instead they kept their intensity and focus and ran away with the game.
Hailey Van Lith led the Cards in scoring with 20. Emily Engstler finished her last regular season home game with another double-double. She had 19 points, 15 rebounds, and left to a standing ovation after being called for her 5th foul. Kianna Smith had 11 points.
Coach Walz said, “I thought we came out in the first half and really did some good things defensively and offensively. Now the end of the first half was the same debacle that we had at Carolina where we’re up 15 and we foul.... we’ve got to get better at closing out halves and closing out games. But I was pleased with how we came out and competed.”
Emily said, “We talked about how we don’t want to lose on Senior Night. There’s all this adrenaline. Families are in the crowd. It makes it that much easier to play with a full heart.”
Hailey discussed bouncing back after the UNC loss. “We can have a bad game but at the end of the day we’re still building. We’re still getting better and we didn’t go backwards this game. Just because we had a bad game and didn’t execute our game plan last game it doesn’t mean that we’re that team again today. We’re clearly still getting better and I can’t wait for the tournament.”
Emily talked about taking a victory lap with the other seniors after the game, “That was cool. I wasn’t really expecting that. It was fun. It’s fun to see everybody standing up and cheering and showing love even though I’ve only put a year into this program. Not a lot of programs would do that that so it just feel like a lot of love.”
Coach Walz talked about Kianna Smith. “Kianna has been here for three years so obviously I’ve had the opportunity to get to know her really well. A remarkable kid. Her family has been outstanding. Her dad’s a college coach. I just really appreciate the fact that they let me push her and she’s responded.”
So Emily Engstler (@em__baller) and Hailey Van Lith (@haileyvanlith) get along pretty well. From accusations of stealing rebounds to trying to get one to say they love the other, the postgame news conference was really funny. "Maybe if you win me a natty, I'll say I love you." pic.twitter.com/hkdUgVU8J0— Tyler Greever (@Tyler_Greever) February 20, 2022
He mentioned that bringing in transfers for 8 or 9 months was going to start being the norm but said that he tries to be selective. “You’ve got to find players who are going to blend in well with what you have. We only graduated one senior from a team that went to the Elite 8 last year and the last thing you want to do is bring in a knucklehead. Then you’re screwed.” He added that he talks to the players. “When Emily Engstler became available in the portal the first person I talked to was Kasa [Mykasa Robinson] because it was directly going to impact her playing time. And Kasa was like ‘I like to win and I’m tired of guarding her so I’d rather her be on our team.’ And that takes some character.”
The Cards hit the road to face Pitt on Thursday. The game is at 6PM and can be seen on ACCNX.