‘Underdog’ women’s basketball surging into postseason

Perseverance, toughness and grit have become pillars of Salisbury University women’s basketball.


Embodying the group’s commitment to building its team chemistry and tenacity, SU guard Lauren Fortescue and forward Kaylee Otlowski remain in the gym alongside their teammates long after daily practice sessions to grow their bond and on-court production.


In the Sea Gulls’ first full season in the Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference, the squad’s intangible assets have begun to define its program.


“We’re a team that never gives up,” Fortescue said. ”That’s what makes us who we are.”


Using the underdog “advantage,” Fortescue said the team’s resilience has allowed the Sea Gulls to overcome double-digit deficits in multiple games this season.


While remaining under the radar compared to undefeated C2C leader Christopher Newport University, the Sea Gulls have quietly amassed a 17-4 overall record through mid-February.


After defeating conference rival University of Mary Washington 48-43 in a defensive struggle Saturday, the two seniors expect the team’s unity to pose a significant threat to C2C competition – including CNU – through the rest of the season.


“I think we’ve both grown over the years as leaders, on and off the court, and we just want what’s best for each other and for our teammates,” Fortescue said. “The ultimate goal is to win the conference, and I think, at this point in the season, we’re willing to do whatever we can to achieve that goal."


“I feel like we can beat anybody.”


Fortescue and Otlowski have each earned C2C Player of the Week honors during the 2021-22 season. The two Pennsylvania natives are distinguishing themselves as the Sea Gulls’ most potent offensive weapons by averaging 12.9 and 13.6 points per game, respectively.


Otlowski said the accolade provided a “spark” for her to continue training diligently during the season, while Fortescue’s award followed “one of the craziest games [she has] ever played in,” featuring a 27-point performance by the player in a victory over William Smith College.


Fortescue’s career-high scoring tally against the WSC Herons contributed to the Sea Gulls’ first double-digit winning streak since 2015.


With the 2021-22 regular season set to close Feb. 19 – and the potential final game on the horizon for the team's four seniors – Fortescue and Otlowski believe the key to remaining on the court is maintaining the proper mindset.


“We need to just relax and have fun, and everything else will come,” Otlowski said.


The two senior standouts will seek to extend their collegiate careers in the C2C Tournament – slated to begin Feb. 24 – by making a nearly 3,000-mile trip to the campus of tournament host University of California, Santa Cruz.


“It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Fortescue said. “I love spending my time with my best friends, so to do it in California just makes it even better.”


 

By JAKOB TODD

Sports editor

Featured image courtesy of Brad Boardman.

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