ACC tourney victory has Kotsopoulos, Catamounts flying high

While the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is arguably the best basketball conference in the country for both men and women, the America East Conference is a relatively unknown conference to most basketball fans.

The teams from each conference seldom meet on the court, but when they do, the ACC team usually dismantles the team from the America East — as was the case in 2005 when the women’s basketball team lost to Boston College, 79-38.

However, there are those rare occasions when the team from the smaller conference gets lucky and pulls off an improbable upset.

This year, the women’s basketball team played the Cinderella role, and it wasn’t luck that secured them the win.

The Cats went to North Carolina State Wolfpack Invitational and simply outplayed every team there, earning the championship title.

The Catamounts defeated Western Michigan 79-65 in the first round of the tournament and followed up their first victory with a statement 52-47 win over tournament host N.C. State.

Head coach Sharon Dawley is certainly happy with her team, but won’t start coasting just yet.

“I am proud of this win, but there are still a lot of things we can improve on,” Dawley said.

“We got better this weekend and proved to ourselves that we can compete with a lot of teams and win some games if we stick together.”

Senior May Kotsopoulos was named tournament MVP, scoring 26 points against Western Michigan and another 21 against N.C. State in the final.

“May was outstanding this weekend,” Dawley said. “She stood out as a premier player through not only her talent, but her leadership too.”

Kotsopolous values all her hard work paying off in the form of a tournament MVP award but realizes the progress of the team, as a whole, is the most important thing.

“I’m happy with the recognition but I’m most happy with our team’s success,” Kotsopoulos said. “We had a lot of people step up and have great weekends, showing the contributions they are going to have this year.”

The magnitude of winning an ACC tournament is felt by all the Catamounts. For any mid-major to go on the road and take a major conference tournament is a key to future success in March.

“Winning a tournament hosted by an ACC team is exciting and definitely shows people what kind of team we are at Vermont,” Kotsopoulos said.

The victory over such a strong basketball team will hopefully provide Vermont with the momentum they need to continue competing at such a high level,  she said.

“This past weekend’s win definitely helps bring us confidence going into this weekend when we play another ACC team [Boston College], as well as a future games coming up,” she said.