In five days, ESPN will host Selection Monday as women’s basketball teams around the country will cross fingers in anticipation of hearing their name called as part of the NCAA Tournament field.
Virginia went through that tense process last season and came away disappointed. Despite a 22-10 record and a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Cavaliers were relegated to the WNIT.
Twelve months later, UVa has been sent to medical rehab centers.
The program won’t be in any form of the postseason for the first time in nine years.
Virginia coach Joanne Boyle told her players they would not be accepting a WNIT bid prior to last week’s ACC Tournament.
It was a matter of health.
“It was based off of where Frankie [Ataira Franklin] was, based off the amount of injuries that we had,” Boyle said Monday. “I’ve been in the NIT, that grind. You find out 24 hours [before, about the game], and then you get on the bus and drive eight hours and figure out where you’re going to be.
“Typically, if you’re going to be in the NIT, you want to give your best shot at winning it. And I didn’t think we had enough of a team to really go into a grind-out tournament and get anything out of it.”
And thus, the page has been flipped to 2013-14.
Boyle’s first goal off the offseason?
“Getting healthy,” she said with a grin.
UVa, which ended 2012-13 with a 16-14 record and a loss in the first round of the ACC Tournament to Boston College, became a MASH unit down the stretch.
Guard Kelsey Wolfe tore her ACL and forwards Telia McCall and Jazmin Pitts each had their bouts with concussions. Throw in earlier season-ending injuries to guards Lexie Gerson (hip) and Raeshaun Gaffney (shin) and the Wahoos became rail-thin at times, occasionally dressing just eight players with Franklin being one of them.
The All-ACC guard led the league in minutes played despite dealing with the lingering issues of a torn meniscus suffered early in 2011-12.
According to Boyle, Franklin has never been at 100 percent at any time in her Virginia career.
As a result, the rising senior’s never gone through a spring or summer workout session.
“I think that’s hurt her basketball-wise,” Boyle said. “She’s always shut down in the spring and the summer. She’s having an MRI [Monday], so hopefully that comes back clear. Every year we do it just to make sure that she’s clean.
“If it comes back clean, the trainers were saying they really need to get some range of motion. They’re really going to have to work on her range of motion, which is going to be very painful. But it’s part of her getting better. ... I would love for Frankie to get some time on the floor in the spring and summer, if she’s healthy.”
Continuing with the getting-back-to-full-strength theme, the timetable for Wolfe’s recovery started Tuesday when the rising senior underwent surgery to repair the ACL in her right knee.
Wolfe, who was averaging close to 11 points per game, went down on Feb. 17 against Maryland.
“I think it’s six months if she has no setbacks,” Boyle said. “If you have to shut a kid down for two weeks because of swelling and all this, then they can just add time.
“I don’t think you can really estimate what it is until you actually have the surgery and see her progression in three or four months.”
Boyle’s hope is a Wolfe return in early January, in time for the start of ACC play.
“But if you talked to Kelsey, she’s going to be ready in November,” Boyle said.
Perhaps the biggest blow to UVa’s season came before it even got started when Gerson was ruled out because of hip surgery.
A redshirt senior to-be in 2013-14, Gerson was an All-ACC defensive team member and the head to Boyle’s signature 1-2-2 zone in 2011-12.
“Her hips are doing great,” Boyle said. “I think she gets to start at the end of this month on the court. So she’s doing underwater treadmill running. They’ll gradually just keep increasing the amount that she does underwater. And then they’ll put her on grass.
“They’re not going to put her on hard-floor. First, they’ll put her on a softer surface, have her do some running, and they’ll gradually move her to the court.”
Gerson is expected to participate when the team takes an African playing tour in August.
“She will [play],” Boyle said. “But a matter of minutes and all of that, we’ll be really cautious depending on the leading up to it.”
Gaffney, a top 40 recruit out of Fairfield, Ohio, had surgery to repair a stress fracture in her right shin on Jan. 18.
A healthy return is crucial considering the Cavs have an opening at point guard with the departure of China Crosby. Gaffney, 5-foot-8, averaged close to 27 points and 10 rebounds per game during her senior year of high school.
“She’s going to get her X-ray on the 25th [of March] and we’ll kind of see where her healing process is and start gradually moving her into stuff,” Boyle said. “She’s off the crutches, she’s still in the boot, but they’re getting her out of the boot.
“She’ll walk, she’ll do underwater treadmill, which she’s doing now, and gradually move back on the court.”
When they all get there, they’ll be preparing for a 2013-14 season that got more difficult on Tuesday with the announcement of Notre Dame’s immediate jump to the ACC.
The Fighting Irish, under coach Muffet McGraw, are a perennial power currently ranked No. 2.
“Muffet’s done a great job,” Boyle said. “I’ve watched that program for a long time and Muffet’s had her down years and then she’s had her great years and then she’s had her down years and now she’s back into her great years again.
“It’s all about sustaining it.”
Which Virginia will attempt to do — once it gets healthy.