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TWU basketball at nationals

The 2023-2024 basketball season was stacked with many firsts for the Texas Woman’s University Pioneers. 

From making it to the Elite Eight, to entering the NCAA Division II National Championship, to ultimately placing second in the nation, Head Coach Beth Jillson described the season to be “magical.”

“I was really proud of just the team chemistry that we had,” Jillson remarked. “And our leaders and upperclassmen really stepped up. From the beginning of the season, we started off in Montana, it’s just a really, really hard tournament. And actually, four of those teams that were playing in Montana were actually in the Elite Eight, so starting off in that tournament and going 3-0, I think we just saw what we were capable of with seven new players and six returners.”

TWU pulled out all stops to support the Pioneers at the national championship. Fan buses were arranged for students to come to St. Joseph, Missouri to view the March 29 game in person and the Student Union held a watch party for those who cheered the team on from Denton.

Now, returning player Ashley Ingram said that for her, the journey to nationals was especially impactful.

“Just being able to see our team come together and build the trust that we did, and just to be successful and working hard and seeing the results of all the hard work that we’ve put in was really awesome to see,” Ingram, a kinesiology pre-occupational therapy student minoring in health psychology, said. 

Leila Patel, a returning player studying business administration, shared similar sentiments.

“I felt like the growth that we had over the season kind of propelled us to where we ended up,” Patel said. “I mean, overall, I’m just proud of how we started and how we ended.”

According to Ingram, focusing on “CASE” (consistency, accountability, selflessness and environment) as a group became a large factor in their historic season, building the Pioneers’ ability to communicate and work with one another for the greater good of the team.

“Another point is just that a lot of us are close friends,” Patel said. “And so, just building those relationships as well as the love we have for each other has been another piece.”

Nationals aside, off the court, Ingram and Patel shared that their favorite team memories this season included having a small bonfire, dinner nights and enjoying each other’s company as their authentic selves.

“What this team has done is really special,” Jillson said. “But hopefully it just gets more people out to athletic events and to know our team is making history and that, you know, I think athletics is all moving in that direction. And that’s exciting. So [we] really appreciate all the support.”

Jocelyn Truong can be reached via email at

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