UT-Arlington women’s basketball coach Krista Gerlich was only seven years old in 1977 - the last time the Lady Mavericks began a season 5-0 when they started 7-0.
Now in her fourth season at the helm, Gerlich has UTA 5-0 again after coming away with the championship trophy in the Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic. The Lady Mavericks defeated Seton Hall 86-61 on Sunday.
Junior Rebekah VanDijk, a former standout at Nazareth High School, scored a career-high 34 points, the fourth-most in single-game school history, and was named tournament MVP. She added 11 rebounds and shot 14 of 19 from the field.
Joining VanDijk on the all-tournament team was junior Cierra Johnson, who had 14 points on 4 of 6 shooting with seven rebounds and three steals. Johnson graduated from Hurst L.D. Bell and was the Star Telegram super team player of the year in 2014.
“Getting two quality wins on the road is huge for us to gain experience playing away from College Park Center,” said Gerlich, whose team beat San Diego State 64-58 on Saturday. “Also, just being in a ‘championship’ game gives us that feel of a high-stakes game. The bonding experiences these types of trips provide are invaluable in building the chemistry needed to play for championships and in post season tournaments.”
VanDijk and Johnson have come a long way, which plays a big reason to why UTA has had a successful start. VanDijk, who was picked as the Sun Belt Conference preseason player of the year, is averaging 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, and shooting 60.7 percent. Johnson has added 12.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
“Rebekah and Cierra are the foundation. They are our first recruiting class to sign and we knew they were who we wanted to build it around,” Gerlich said. “They have bought into our system and they uphold the standards that we have set for our program. They are definitely the heart and soul of the Lady Mavs.”
But Gerlich is getting production elsewhere too. UTA is averaging 74 points per game while allowing 62.2 points. The Lady Mavericks are also outscoring opponents 93-65 in the fourth quarter, their biggest point differential of any quarter this season.
“We are deeper than we've ever been, especially in the guard position. We are fast, athletic and we have some scorers. That has been a good addition to our post game,” Gerlich said. “We're able to play four guards around our post and press for 40 minutes. We are playing a fun style of basketball.”
The Lady Mavericks return to action at home on Saturday when they host Stephen F. Austin at 2 p.m. UTA plays five of its next seven games at College Park Center.
“It just gives me so much pride for UTA, and the legacy we are trying to build in women's basketball,” said Gerlich. “These kids are laying the foundation for many more accomplishments that hopefully will get Lady Mav basketball recognized on a national level and really start building a rich tradition here in Arlington.”