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'Sky's the limit' for Tech women
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ATLANTA — The Georgia Tech women’s team is no longer focusing on goals such as making the NCAA tournament.

No, this team fully expects to be playing in the postseason. The Yellow Jackets are more concerned with how many games they’ll win once they get there.

"I don’t really want to set any limits on this group," fifth-year coach MaChelle Joseph said. "The sky’s the limit."

Indeed, Georgia Tech is coming off a landmark season in the largely underwhelming history of its women’s program.

The Yellow Jackets went 21-12 and posted the second-best turnaround in Atlantic Coast Conference history, going from 2-12 in league play to 9-5. They knocked off defending national champion Maryland. Most important, they reached the NCAAs for only the third time in school history — and capped it off with their first tournament win ever.

"Not only have we found a way to win, we figured out how to win on the road, how to win in the ACC, how to win close games at the end," Joseph said. "I really believe we can take this another step. All we’ve talked about since the season ended was moving forward."

With four starters and four other letter winners being joined by a top recruiting class, the Yellow Jackets picked "How Sweet It Is" as their theme this year — as in, they expect to make it at least to the Sweet 16.

Among the returnees: forward Janie Mitchell, who led the team in rebounding and finished second in scoring (14.5 points a game); guard Chioma Nnamaka, who averaged 13 points; and guard Jacqua Williams, the defensive stopper who set a school record for steals and ranked second in blocked shots.

There’s one big hole to fill, leading scorer Stephanie Higgs and her 15.4-point average, but the Yellow Jackets don’t sound at all concerned.

"Our confidence is very high right now," Mitchell said. "We’ve been able to experience the next level of play in the NCAA tournament. We know where we need to be. I think everybody is focused on what we need to do to get even better than last year."

Joining the mix is one of the highest-rated recruiting classes in the country. Joseph and her staff went far and wide to land a group that includes high school All-Americans Alex Montgomery, a 6-foot-1 forward from Portland, Ore., and Iasia Hemingway, a 5-11 guard from Newark, N.J. Amy Norton, a transfer from UCLA, will be eligible to join the team in January.

"They are truly what everybody is expecting them to be, and probably even more," Mitchell said. "The thing that impresses me most about them is not even on the court, but off the court. They’re all very responsible. They came in wanting to learn. I think they’ve added a lot to our team chemistry both on and off the court already."

Joseph endured some tough times building the program, such as three straight losing seasons and the worst showing in ACC play since 1986.

"I remember five years ago when I took this job and I sat here talking about wanting to get to the Final Four and having a chance to win a national championship," she said. "I know 90 percent of the people in this room thought I was crazy, and at times I thought I was crazy."

Now, she doesn’t sound crazy at all.

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