eorgia Pineau didn’t know what to do with herself.
The Australian was in her Melbourne home trying to find ways to pass the time, hanging out with her family, playing basketball, and working out.
There was no structure. No school. And very little responsibility.
Pineau had signed with Boston College and graduated from Caulfield Grammar School in November of 2015. The end of the Australian school year left an uneventful seven-month gap before she flew across the globe to Chestnut Hill for her freshman year.
At least then, she had something to look forward to.
Now, four and a half years later, Pineau doesn’t know what to expect every day when she wakes up, all thanks to COVID-19.
She’s been robbed of her final two months of senior year, what could have been her program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 14 years, and a chance to say a proper goodbye to lifelong friends.
Just as it was for teammates and classmates, Pineau’s world was flipped upside down in four days. Not only that, but the whirlwind of BC’s shutdown catapulted her and senior point guard Taylor Ortlepp—a native of Adelaide, Australia—more than 10,000 miles away from a campus they call a home away from home.
Pineau and Ortlepp are in the same boat and had to self-isolate for two weeks after flying back to their respective Australian states. But center Emma Guy—the third and last senior of this year’s team—is in Penfield, N.Y., separated from them by a 22-hour flight and, of course, a travel ban.
Guy spends her days doing chores around the house, going for runs, and playing basketball with her 25-year-old brother, Jake. Ortlepp has turned to organizing her room, getting some sun in the garden, and relaxing with her parents. And Pineau devoted hours of her 14-day quarantine at her Cape Paterson beach house to completing jigsaw puzzles, learning how to meditate, and teaching her year-old golden retriever Millie how to roll and jump up on furniture.
This was a group of seniors who, despite weathering a coaching change and winning a combined seven ACC games in their first three years at BC, led this year’s team to the Eagles’ first 20-win season since 2010-11, a program-record-breaking 11 ACC victories, and the conference tournament semifinals. A group that was supposed to go dancing, but instead spent the back half of March on Zoom like every other college student.
“It didn’t really hit home until the last few days when I’m sitting in my house, and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is really my life now,’” Pineau said.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#800000″ text=”#ffffff” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”“It didn’t really hit home until the last few days when I’m sitting in my house, and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is really my life now.’"” cite=”Georgia Pineau” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
efore the pandemic, Pineau and Ortlepp planned on country-hopping around Europe after graduation. Since leaving school, they’ve already discussed traveling back to Boston as soon as the Centers for Disease Control gives the green light to reopen the borders.
Their friendship extends far beyond basketball.
It was the game, however, that brought them together. Although they grew up an eight-hour car ride apart, the Aussies—both blond and often smiling ear to ear—have been playing on the same court for years. Just not always for the same team.
Pineau and Ortlepp squared off against one another throughout grade school. It wasn’t until 10th grade, though, that they officially met. It was September 2013, and they were both trying out for the Australian U16 team.
After earning their roster spots, the team upended New Zealand in a series to make the qualifiers for the following year’s FIBA U17 World Championships. The World Championships started with 10 games in China, spanning three weeks. Then, the team went to Italy for a week before rounding out the trip with a two-week stay in the Czech Republic. Pineau and Ortlepp roomed together the whole time, and their friendship blossomed.
Yet there was no guarantee that they would play alongside one another again. Pineau had an offer from St. Mary’s College of California, a school known for heavily recruiting men’s and women’s Australian basketball players—including NBA guards Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova, and even Pineau’s brother, Dane, who played for the Gaels from 2013 to 2017.
Erik Johnson, BC’s head coach at the time, was talking to his former UC San Diego basketball teammate Tim Rapp—who played pro basketball in Australia, lives in Melbourne, and is still in touch with the game—when he learned of Pineau. Soon enough, Johnson contacted Pineau, and by November 2015, she signed.
Ortlepp, on the other hand, took an official visit to Virginia that same year but didn’t commit. She originally had her eyes set on the West Coast because it was closer to home, and she had a handful of mid-major offers to choose from.
Then Johnson discovered her while watching Pineau’s film from the U17 World Championships.
He texted Pineau asking about Ortlepp, and Pineau gave rave reviews. Next thing Ortlepp knew, she was on a February plane trip to Boston, and before she even got on her flight back to Adelaide, she had signed.
Just like that, the two Aussies were reunited.
“I can’t imagine going to school without [Ortlepp],” Pineau said. “I don’t know how I would have lasted.”
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uy still remembers the first time she met Pineau and Ortlepp.
In June 2016, the summer before their freshman year, Guy saw Pineau in the front of Stayer Hall while checking into her dorm. She first noticed Pineau’s accent. She’d never talked to an Australian before. A day later, the same thought popped in her head when meeting Ortlepp, who she thought sounded British.
“I was just thinking, ‘Wow, this is going to be freaking great!’” Guy said. “‘I’m going to play with Australians. This is going to be so cool!’”
That summer, the team’s freshman class connected. The group initially consisted of five players, but Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy formed a special bond. With only about an hour of practice a day, they had ample time to chat and begin to develop their friendships off the court.
Pineau and Ortlepp, in particular, took to exploring the city by bike.
“A lot of kids, sometimes, when they go to summer school, they hang out in the dorms and they’re not as adventurous their first time away from home,” Johnson said. “These two, they were like kids in a candy store in Boston.”
The preseason wasn’t all fun and games, though. As summer transitioned to fall and classes began, Pineau struggled to get back into an academic mindset, having graduated from high school some 10 months earlier. Meanwhile, before the start of the regular season, Ortlepp had to have arthroscopic knee surgery—the byproduct of a lingering injury, in which she had loose joint bodies, or “floating bones,” in her knee.
Ortlepp had to sit out the first seven games of the year, while Pineau played her way into the season-opening starting five, and Guy carved out a role in the rotation behind established frontcourt players, including Mariella Fasoula and Emilee Daley.
Johnson’s team regressed from the season before, finishing the 2016-17 campaign at the bottom of the ACC. BC won only nine games all year. Every other team in the conference won at least 15.
Pineau led all BC freshmen in starts, points, and rebounds, and she wrapped up her rookie year averaging 7.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. As far as scoring averages go, Ortlepp wasn’t too far behind. The 5-foot-10 point guard posted 7.3 points per game and started the last 12 contests of the season, exploding for 18 or more points in three of the final six games. Guy, who Johnson said was an “under-the-radar” recruit, notched 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 54.2 percent from the floor.
Even though BC lost its last 10 games of the regular season by an average of 17.1 points per game and fellow freshmen Jasmine Taylor and Shannon Ryan left the program soon after the year’s end, there was reason for Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy to be optimistic.
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lot of college basketball players make a jump from year one to year two. Guy was on track to do the same—and more.
The 6-foot-3 freckled center turned heads during offseason and preseason workouts. With Fasoula’s transfer, there was a spot in the paint up for grabs, and Guy looked the part.
“We were sitting there going, ‘Man, this kid is going to be unbelievable this year,’” Johnson said.
But soon, everything unraveled. In mid-October, Guy contracted strep and mono at the same time, losing all of her energy at once. She had a difficult time getting out of bed and felt as if she couldn’t move.
Her parents pulled her out of school for two weeks to expedite her recovery. When she could finally stand on her own, she returned to campus and slowly got back into team workouts. At that point, though, she was out of shape.
“My thought process during this entire time was, like, ‘I gotta keep fighting, I gotta keep coming back,’” Guy said. “No matter what, I have to do this for my team.’”
After being sidelined for the first four games of the year, she played the next six. The strep came back twice more, and sinus infections piled on. Pineau used the same word as Johnson when describing Guy’s sophomore season: “heartbreaking.”
Just when it looked as though things couldn’t get any worse, Guy suffered two concussions—one before the start of ACC play and another against Wake Forest on Feb. 1, 2018.
Guy was fed up with her illnesses and injuries, and fearful for her career. One day she just sat down at her locker and broke down. But she wasn’t alone. Pineau and Ortlepp were right by her side, patting her back and listening as Guy vented. The Aussies comforted their center and never doubted that she’d be back.
Guy attended sports psychology appointments that winter, and although she couldn’t suit up for the final eight games of the year, she reset her basketball demeanor.
“I think that’s really what kept me focused going into junior year,” Guy said. “Being like, ‘I’ve worked this hard, I’ve continued to work this hard no matter what happens to me, I know I can always bounce back’—and that’s what I did.”
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rtlepp knew that losing Guy in the post was a big blow. It was just one of several injuries that riddled the Eagles’ 2017-18 season.
BC’s offense was run through three sophomores, two freshmen, and a fifth-year hockey player. It got ugly at times, as the Eagles dropped games to Ivy League foes Dartmouth and Columbia, surrendered a 21-point home defeat to Maine, and endured two five-plus game ACC losing streaks.
While Guy wrestled with her own health, Pineau and Ortlepp ran the show. Both had their best statistical seasons of their careers. Ortlepp starred, averaging a team-leading 12.3 points per game and knocking down 65 triples in the process. She eclipsed the 20-point mark on five separate occasions, including three times in the final four games of the year.
Eleven of BC’s 15 ACC losses were decided by 10 or more points. But the last two contests of the year—both of which saw Ortlepp drill seven 3-pointers—were two-possession games.
“I think knowing that we were that close, it kept me motivated,” Ortlepp said. “We were right on the edge—if we could just put a few things together, we were going to be good.”
At that moment, though, they weren’t. The Eagles ended the year 7-23, the program’s worst single-season winning percentage since 2011-12. Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy knew what was coming next, but it didn’t make the news any easier to hear.
The day after BC’s five-point loss to North Carolina in the first round of the ACC Tournament, Johnson called a team meeting and informed them that, after six years at the helm, he was resigning.
Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy recall how emotional Johnson’s final speech was. They were losing their coach and, for the time being, saying goodbye to a friend and a mentor—someone who did all the little things, such as picking players up from the airport and driving them to Target to get dorm supplies, in addition to offering an endless stream of support.
Johnson—who also served as an assistant for the late Cathy Inglese from 2005 to 2008—was walking away from BC for the second time in his coaching career. But he knew the move was bigger than him.
“The program was never about me, the team was never about me,” he said. “This was about them.”
Johnson told his team that Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond would find the right person to complete the program’s rebuild, and Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy bought in. There wasn’t a second when they thought about transferring away.
“Having a vision, we came together and agreed that we’re not going to take the easy way out,” Ortlepp said.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#800000″ text=”#ffffff” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”“The program was never about me, the team was never about me. This was about them.”” cite=”Erik Johnson, former BC women’s basketball head coach” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
he’s tiny,” Pineau said laughing.
That was her first impression of head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. Yet it didn’t take long for the 6-foot-1 Pineau to see just how big of a hire her new coach was.
“Coach Mac” was coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons with Albany. In her first two years as the Great Danes’ head coach, she had guided Albany to NCAA Tournament and NIT appearances. Before jumping to the D-I level, she took the University of Pikeville to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Final Four. And as an assistant, she was part of the coaching staff that helped Maryland win its lone national championship in 2005-06.
“You could see it in her eyes,” Guy said. “She wanted the best for us and wanted the best for our program. She was willing to do whatever it took to turn the program around.”
Bernabei-McNamee had a lot of work to do, and so did Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy. They were the leaders of a team in transition, one that had five total returners, no seniors, and seven freshmen. The fact that those three stuck around made an impression on Bernabei-McNamee.
“It told me that they were committed to Boston College, but also committed to each other,” she said.
Bernabei-McNamee wanted to promote a culture defined by work ethic and character. She saw that Johnson and his underclassmen leaders had laid down a foundation for that.
Still, they needed to glue together a roster with seven new faces. It made for what Ortlepp calls an “interesting summer.”
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art of what made Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy’s freshman year a bit easier was having upperclassmen take them under their wings. Approaching summer 2018, they realized it was now their turn to foster those relationships.
Pineau noted that having two years to develop connections with the newcomers was significant, as it resulted in long-term friendships. That summer, they did team-building exercises, watched movies together in the dorms, played lawn games outside, and went to Bernabei-McNamee’s house for dinner nights.
“It was weird how fast we all clicked with one another,” Guy said. “Yes, like, as a family there were some rifts to start out with. But at the end of the day, we really did have that family feel. And we always had each other’s back no matter what.”
Like the huge freshman class, Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy were making adjustments of their own. They were embracing the differences that came with having a female leader, and they were adapting to Bernabei-McNamee’s system.
“Our first year was almost like we were coaching 12 freshmen,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “Because no one really knew.”
In a comforting way, however, the scheme reminded Pineau and Ortlepp of their high school days. Right off the bat, Pineau keyed in on how Bernabei-McNamee’s offense mirrored the high-octane pace of play in Australia, where there’s only a 24-second shot clock, as opposed to the 30-second clock in U.S. women’s college ball.
Bernabei-McNamee’s offense is built around an inside-out game, starting in the low post. She likes to run sets through the five with a physical center who’s not afraid to rough it out down low but also has a faceup game. Fortunately for Guy, she checks off all those boxes.
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Throughout the first two months of the 2018-19 campaign, it appeared as if the new scheme was working to perfection. BC outscored its first three opponents by an average of 27.4 points per game, registering 80 or more points in each contest—a mark that the Eagles failed to reach even once during the 2017-18 season.
BC kickstarted the year with a six-game win streak and had matched the team’s 2017-18 win total by the first week of December. The youth movement relied on attacking the glass and pushing the ball in transition. Guy flourished, averaging a team-high 14.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, putting her snakebitten sophomore season in the rear-view mirror. One after another, the Eagles stockpiled wins, going 11-2 against non-conference foes.
“The teams we were playing,” Pineau said, “we were ready for them, but they weren’t necessarily ready for us.”
When ACC play rolled around, though, the Eagles’ winning slowly grinded to a halt. BC split its first four games against conference opponents, scraping by both Wake Forest and Pittsburgh on the road but losing to North Carolina State and Georgia Tech at home.
From that point forward, the Eagles won only one more game all season—a double-overtime thriller against Duke. Once hinting at an improbable postseason berth, the season snowballed toward mediocrity and the ACC’s cellar.
BC lost its final seven games of the year by double digits. Two were decided by 50- and 30-point margins, and for the fourth straight season, the Eagles finished 13th or worse in the ACC.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#800000″ text=”#ffffff” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”“Our first year was almost like we were coaching 12 freshmen. Because no one really knew.”” cite=”Joanna Bernabei-McNamee, BC women’s basketball head coach” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
ollowing a 16-point defeat to UVA in the opening round of the 2019 ACC Tournament, Bernabei-McNamee gave her players a week off. After that, it was all business.
She and her coaching staff made the most of the offseason practice restrictions. They budgeted the eight hours of weekly practice to maximize the time they had together in Power Gym.
“I remember coming down from a few workouts, my T-shirt or jersey would be drenched in sweat just from working so hard,” Pineau said. “We’d do really tough individual sessions with small numbers and all the coaches, so you couldn’t escape anything. No time for breaks, nothing.”
Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy felt an infectious sense of urgency heading into their senior year. BC was returning virtually the same team from the year before—while adding Colorado transfer Cameron Swartz and freshmen Jaelyn Batts and Akunna Konkwo—and was preparing for what many expected to be an unusually weak ACC.
“Everyone had it ingrained in their mind that we were going to be better, and we were going to hold each other accountable so that we could achieve what we wanted to achieve this year,” Ortlepp said.
That doesn’t mean it was going to be easy. BC was picked by head coaches in the ACC Preseason Poll to repeat as the third-worst team in the conference, and with their eyes set on the postseason, the Eagles experienced a bevy of unexpected setbacks in the fall of 2019.
Both Guy and Ortlepp dealt with injuries. Guy had scope surgery on her right knee in July to clear cartilage and plica. While she missed three-fourths of the team’s summer workouts, she was able to get back into the swing of things by the time BC had its first official fall practice in late September. Ortlepp’s recovery, on the other hand, was a bit more complicated.
She developed a cyst on her ACL and the same kind of cartilage damage as she had during her freshman year, but on her other knee. At first, she and team doctors suspected that it was tendinitis. But when she got an MRI at the end of preseason, nothing showed.
Ortlepp tried playing through the pain in the season opener, yet, soon after, the discomfort became unbearable during practice. That’s when she had surgery, a procedure that cost her the next 10 games and a whole lot of stress.
She watched the Eagles lose back-to-back contests to Holy Cross and a 13-win Providence team, and then fall to Charlotte in the Puerto Rico Classic. After sweeping through non-conference competition the previous year, BC’s postseason chances were already taking a hit.
“Seeing that happen from the outside, I think that kind of motivated me to get back and make a difference and get us going back in the right direction as soon as I was able to get back on the court,” Ortlepp said.
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hen you step onto the court, you have to be able to flip a switch that takes you from being this high-character, lovely, genuinely nice person into being—for lack of better words—a badass women’s basketball player,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
It’s a trait that Bernabei-McNamee says Inglese’s BC teams possessed. It was only fitting that in a season dedicated to the Eagles’ most esteemed coach—who died during the summer after suffering a traumatic fall—Bernabei-McNamee’s team finally accomplished that feat.
In early December, BC held a team meeting. The players and coaches discussed expectations for practice, laying out what was and wasn’t acceptable. It was a time to refocus and reestablish chemistry, according to Guy.
“We brought the team together, and we reminded them, ‘Hey we’re a family, and the only way to get through the season is if we do it together,’” she said. “That’s how we’re going to win.”
Starting with their Dec. 8 game against Duke, the Eagles wore commemorative “CI” patches under their right shoulders. They lost that game, but gradually found themselves. BC rattled off a pair of blowout victories over Boston University and Delaware State, and Ortlepp reentered the rotation. N.C. State handed the Eagles a defeat in their second ACC contest, but it wasn’t long before BC started making noise in the conference standings.
Makayla Dickens guided the Eagles to a win at Pittsburgh, and four days later, Taylor Soule fueled a 10-point victory in South Bend, BC’s first win against Notre Dame since March 19, 2006. Although Notre Dame was in the midst of its first losing season in 18 years, the Eagles’ win proved monumental.
Before this year, BC had never recorded a victory in Purcell Pavilion. Bernabei-McNamee knew the significance of the achievement, and she didn’t let it go to waste. She greeted her team in the locker room with an emphatic “Ladies, that’s what I’m talking about!,” igniting a frenzy of screaming and cheers.
“Every time a camera would catch us celebrating, it wasn’t like we were putting on a show for the camera,” the second-year Eagles head coach said. “We were truly that excited.”
The celebrations kept coming. BC rebounded from losses to UVA and Louisville with a 55-48 victory at Georgia Tech—a team that was 14-4 with a three-game win streak and two ranked wins in its back pocket. The Eagles were run out of Blacksburg, Va. but didn’t think twice about it, upsetting No. 14 Florida State to cap the three-game road trip.
Once again, there was pandemonium in the locker room. Bernabei-McNamee was showered with water from the players’ Powerade bottles, as they circled their coach in jubilation. BC had already tallied its most ACC wins in a single season since 2014-15, and it wasn’t even February.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#800000″ text=”#ffffff” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"We brought the team together, and we reminded them, ‘Hey we’re a family, and the only way to get through the season is if we do it together.’"” cite=”Emma Guy” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
hen Ortlepp came back from her knee injury, she was asked to play a different role than she was used to. Rather than being a high-volume scorer, the veteran point guard was expected to keep the offense poised and distribute the ball.
“To Taylor’s credit, it probably would have been difficult had it been anybody else,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “But because she does have that high character, and she exudes team over self, you would have never known that she was upset with the change in her role.”
With scoring guards already on the court—such as Marnelle Garraud, Dickens, and Swartz—Bernabei-McNamee needed Ortlepp to serve as a complementary guard.
Ortlepp will be the first to admit that it was difficult to make that change. Looking back, she thinks she overcompensated and passed up more shots than she should have. She wasn’t alone. Pineau was also figuring out how to master a new role.
After starting nearly every game of her first three seasons at BC, Pineau began the year on the bench. Bernabei-McNamee tabbed the forward as her sixth man. It was Pineau’s job to light a spark every time she stepped foot on the floor. Some games she had more success than others, but she grew to understand how to contribute in limited time.
“I knew that if I was playing my best—even though I wasn’t having those minutes that I [used to]—that could get us rolling again,” Pineau said.
Ortlepp, too, eventually rediscovered her confidence. She arrived in Tallahassee without a 3-point field goal in her previous six games. Ortlepp didn’t play a single minute in the first quarter, but she capped the upset victory by chipping in three triples.
While the Aussies were settling in, Guy was building on her breakout junior season. Beginning at FSU, the center strung together nine consecutive double-digit scoring games, surpassing the 1,000-point career mark as a result. She and Soule led the offense, attacking the interior at will. En route to earning First-Team All-ACC honors, Guy shot a career-high 59.4 percent from the field—first in the ACC and 10th nationally—averaging 13.3 points per game along the way.
“I think when I got the job, if I were to say, ‘Hey Emma, you’re going to be First-Team All-ACC,’ she would have looked at me in disbelief,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “But that’s where she ended her career.”
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All three seniors had big moments, as BC rattled off five straight wins, including four at home, shattering the program’s single-season ACC wins record.
Guy scored the buzzer-beating layup to sweep Notre Dame for the first time in program history on Feb. 13. Of course, the pass came from Pineau, who got her shining moment on Senior Day when she went off for a season-high 20 points against Miami. And Ortlepp saved her best for last, racking up 18 points in the Carrier Dome to help BC beat the Orange and secure the sixth seed in the ACC Tournament.
“It didn’t even feel like we were going to lose,” Ortlepp said. “We just had so much confidence in one another that no matter what, we were going to come out on top.”
“It was finally fun.”
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C flew to Greensboro, N.C., with an 18-11 record and a legitimate shot to become the program’s first team since Inglese’s 2005-06 Sweet 16 squad to make the NCAA Tournament.
A win over Clemson in the second round, following a first-round bye, set the stage for the Eagles’ biggest game of the year: a rematch with third-seeded Duke. A lot had happened since the teams butted heads in the ACC opener, and it was about just as evenly matched as you can get. That was, until the fourth quarter.
Duke took a seven-point lead in the final frame, sinking seven of its first eight field-goal attempts in the quarter. BC didn’t back down, though. Soule, the ACC’s Most Improved Player of the Year, single-handedly erased the deficit, and the Eagles closed the game on a 14-0 run, advancing to the ACC Tournament semifinals for just the second time ever.
The next day against No. 10 N.C. State, with a trip to the conference title game on the line, BC laid an egg in the second quarter, and entered the fourth trailing by 20. Again, the Eagles didn’t fold. BC scored 30 points in the final period, narrowing what could have been an embarrassing loss into a seven-point, resume-boosting defeat. The three seniors combined for 18 points in the quarter, with Ortlepp catching fire and drilling four 3-pointers.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t make that run earlier in the game,” Pineau said. “I think that if there was another quarter to play, there was no chance that N.C. State would’ve beaten us.”
Still, the Eagles’ late-season push appeared to be enough to earn them a spot in the field of 64. In fact, as of March 9, ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme had BC in his “Last Four In.”
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#800000″ text=”#ffffff” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”“As soon as the NCAA decided to cancel the tournaments, and then when BC shut down, my heart truly broke for those three.”” cite=”Joanna Bernabei-McNamee, BC women’s basketball head coach” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
C’s season was magical in every sense of the word. The thing about magic, however, is that in a split second … POOF! It can go away.
When Guy first saw the email from University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. canceling all on-campus classes for the rest of the semester, she froze. Standing in the middle of the living room of her Mod, she asked herself, “What is going on?” Shock turned to anger as she called her dad and then Bernabei-McNamee to figure out what would happen to their season.
“To be honest, [Guy, Ortlepp, and Pineau] were the first people I thought of,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “As soon as the NCAA decided to cancel the tournaments, and then when BC shut down, my heart truly broke for those three.”
Pineau was in class when she heard the news. She immediately texted her teammates and sent a flurry of messages to her group chat with Ortlepp and Guy.
“I didn’t really comprehend it straight away,” Pineau said. “I was like, ‘Holy crap, we’re about to leave.’”
It was a matter of minutes before the rest of her classmates convinced their professor to let them leave. Guy and Ortlepp met Pineau outside her class, and the three went to grab food as usual. Except this trip to the dining hall was anything but normal.
That night, Pineau hosted all of her teammates in her Mod. BC students shifted from a state of grief to all-out celebration during the final on-campus moments of the 2019-20 academic year.
The next day, the team had practice. Recently named ACC Coach of the Year Bernabei-McNamee and the rest of the coaching staff were on a recruiting trip, leaving assistant coach AJ Cohen to run the ship. Right before practice, the ACC suspended all athletic activity. It was just another domino to fall in what seemed like the world’s most twisted Rube Goldberg project yet.
Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy appreciated the practice for what it was: one last chance to sweat, laugh, and cry with their sisters. They played shooting games like knockout and sevens, and ended the practice with one giant huddle. In what Guy calls a “sad but fulfilling moment,” the women took turns reflecting on the season, crying throughout.
A few hours later, the team was back in Conte for a student-athlete meeting with Jarmond. Midway through the third-year AD’s meeting, the NCAA made the announcement everyone expected but dreaded: All men’s and women’s championships for winter and spring sports had been canceled.
“We were definitely very upset, but we kind of knew it was coming, so we were semi-prepared—but I feel like I still haven’t fully accepted it,” Ortlepp said, her voice shaking.
Jarmond consoled the team, and the players walked back to Power Gym to grieve together. They spent at least two hours in the gym comforting one another, remembering all they had accomplished, and preparing to say goodbye.
When Bernabei-McNamee returned, she invited the entire team to her house for a banquet on Saturday night. The seniors were honored, they spoke to the team, and more tears were shed.
As the seniors’ Monday departure date crept closer, they were stuck wondering what would happen to their friendships with both their teammates and their friends.
“Especially being all the way across the world, there are some of the people I probably won’t see ever again,” Pineau said. “Which is just so sad to think about, because of all the friends that I have. I know that I was friends with them at college, but who knows if we’re going to ever meet and see each other?”
She added: “That was just the saddest part of the whole week.”
It’s been about a month, and the lost postseason hasn’t gotten easier to stomach for Pineau, Ortlepp, and Guy. But at home, they have been able to cherish what they did accomplish—not just this year, but throughout their BC careers.
They reinforced a family-oriented culture that values character above all else. They survived a coaching change and bridged the gap between two eras of BC women’s basketball. And they captained a long-awaited journey back toward the top of the ACC.
That’s something that no one can take away from them.
Not even a pandemic.
Featured Image by Kait Devir / Heights Staff
First Photo Courtesy of Georgia Pineau
Remaining Photos by Zoe Zhao / Heights Staff, Keith Carroll / Heights Senior Staff, Robert Franklin / AP Photo, Celine Lim / Heights Senior Staff, Ikram Ali / Heights Editor, Kait Devir / Heights Staff