SCRANTON, Pa. _ In the minds of Katie O'Reilly and her University of Scranton teammates, they went 1-0 each time they took to the court this season.
That's what coach Trevor Woodruff asked them to do: Take the tiniest of baby steps. The result thus far? A 27-0 record and a Landmark Conference Championship.
Montville's O'Reilly has played an important role for the Lady Royals, coming off the bench and averaging 14.9 minutes per game. O'Reilly, a sophomore guard, has appeared in every game and averages 3.7 points. More importantly, she is contributing excellent defense.
"Being undefeated is very exciting," said O'Reilly, who has 25 3-pointers. "We set out to win each game and take them one at a time. All we want to do is go 1-0. It's been so much fun."
The delightful ride continues for Scranton, one of three remaining unbeaten teams in the country, when it plays Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Friday, March 4 in the opening round of the NCAA Division 3 Tournament. The Lady Royals will host the first and second rounds.
O'Reilly said the reason she is getting more minutes is her willingness to play hard-nosed defense. In order to improve, O'Reilly took a lot of suggestions and turned up her defense a few notches.
"I am applying everything I learn to what I already know," said O'Reilly, an exercise science major. "In man to man, you need to be focused and see everything that's happening. You can't stay really focused on your own person."
Scranton has had a relatively smooth ride, prevailing with ease in the majority of its games. In their opener, the Lady Royals defeated The College of New Jersey by six points, 59-53. Three games later at Cabrini, Scranton prevailed by six.
Moravian threatened the Lady Royals' perfection, taking them to overtime before falling, 70-65.
"I was worried a little about that one," O'Reilly said. "It was close all the way. In overtime, we scored on every possession but our last one and got the win."
Getting past Catholic in the Landmark Conference final was monumental, despite the fact that it had already dispatched it twice. In the 2014-15 season, Catholic edged Scranton, 52-51, in the title game. This time, the Lady Royals came out on top, 78-57, in a packed gym and captured its fourth conference tournament crown in school history.
"It was interesting to play Catholic again in this season's tournament final," O'Reilly said. "We had the homecourt advantage. We couldn't let it be the end of it."
O'Reilly said she is "proud of what Scranton has done" and noted that the team set its goals high.
As for the NCAAs, O'Reilly believes the Lady Royals possess what it takes to go the distance.
"Everyone plays great defense and we have good shooters," she said. "Our post players complement each other well. We share the ball as much as we can looking for the perfect shot."