Women’s basketball team received AP ranking for the first time in six years

Andrew Twenter // The Miami Hurricane

The University of Miami women’s basketball team is off to its best start in quite some time. The Canes (13-4, 1-2) were ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll last week. It was the team’s first ranking since February 23, 2004.

Since being ranked, the Canes dropped a heartbreaker to Duke and lost to Wake Forest. Duke is a perennial powerhouse and the Canes trailed the Demon Deacons by as much as 19 points but only lost by three after a valiant second-half effort.

“There’s absolutely no satisfaction with the outcome,” fifth-year head coach Katie Meier said after the Canes’ 69-62 loss to Duke last week. “We’ve changed, it’s different here, we’re not almost, that’s not good enough.”

This is the answer you expect a coach to say with a veteran ball club who is used to winning. Meier believes in her girls and holds them to a high standard even with their youth and inexperience. Despite the fact the team only has two upper classmen, they expect to win every night out.

Winning has not been a word synonymous with women’s basketball the last three years. Miami is a combined 6-36 the last three years in the ACC and has finished no higher than 10th in any one of the years.

“I’ve been here the longest and it’s gratifying to see this team reach new levels,” senior forward Charmaine Clark said.

The Canes are led by the dynamic sophomore guard duo, Riquana Williams and Shenise Johnson. They are averaging 21.4 and 18.1 points per game respectively. Both are amongst the ACC leaders.

The Canes’ biggest win came on January 10, when Williams scored 27 points to lead the Canes in an upset victory over No. 11 Florida State. It was Miami’s first victory over a top 15-ranked team since 1991.

But what was more shocking than the victory itself was the way these young ladies and their coaching staff handled winning. This is a program that has been at the cellar of the ACC the last three years and seen numerous players transfer out over the years. The team was happy but was already focusing on its next opponent.

“All we talked about was ACC play during the off season,” said Meier, whose team is second in scoring in the ACC and third in rebounds. “That’s all we talk about in the huddles. That’s not an ACC shot, that’s not an ACC rebound, that’s not how you win in ACC games, that’s not ACC intensity. Everything we talk about is the ACC.”

The Canes travel to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins (14-4, 2-2) Thursday night at 7 p.m. That game can be heard on 90.5 FM WVUM.

Justin Antweil may be contacted at jantweil@themiamihurricane.com.

Lelan LeDoux contributed to this story.