Coach Patrick O’Neill admits he has been "shocked" by his Ulster University side this season but is, nevertheless, confident they can land the women’s All-Ireland Division One title and the golden prize of a place in next year’s Superleague.
Led by captain Aoife Callaghan and vice captain Lexi Posset, UU finished top of the Northern Conference having lost only two games out 14 and tomorrow they head to the National Basketball Arena for the Championship final clash with Southern Conference winners NUIG Mystics.
It promises to be a close encounter and O’Neill will be hoping that point guard Posset continues her incredible form to help spark a famous victory.
Posset, 23, has been averaging an impressive 21 points a game, while also pulling the strings for a young side that seems to have improved with every game – including last weekend’s play-off semi-final victory over Portlaoise.
Coach O’Neill said: "We lost a couple of experienced players due to Covid and the young players really stepped up, in particular Abigail Rafferty, and Alex Mulligan, while Ciara Cooke has blossomed having been given more minutes. They just seemed to have thrived with the new responsibility. We haven’t had a second American this season so, to be honest, we started the season hoping to win around six or seven games.
"So we have been shocked by how well we have done and it’s all credit to every member of the team in the way they have all contributed. For example, in the semi-final win we had five players in double figures.
"Our captain Aoife Callaghan has led by example. She has been brilliant for multiple seasons. The best thing about Aoife is that she is a great organiser, while also able to hold people to account but always doing it in a team-focused manner.
"We now know that we’re in for the ultimate challenge in Division One. The Mystics have already won the Division One Cup and they have a very good, balanced team but we’re ready for this challenge."
As for the impact of American Posset, O’Neill said: "Lexi has been terrific for us. She played for the team two years ago when we made the play-off semi-finals but suffered a knee injury and we lost. She has come back this year and been very influential.
"When I look back to that first year and the way Lexi plays now, I have seen a growth in her leadership skills. She is able to make everyone around her a better player and she also understands the game better and how the game here is refereed. She has been great and we’re going to need another big performance from Lexi."