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Passing the torch from Siegrist to Olsen, a look ahead for Villanova women’s basketball

Villanova women’s basketball bid farewell to a legend, when Maddy Siegrist declared for the WNBA Draft, but the Wildcats remain optimistic for the future.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Villanova at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In the world of Villanova basketball, there are moments that transcend the game itself, etching themselves into the annals of history. Maddy Siegrist, a name that will forever be synonymous with excellence and achievement, recently left the program after an illustrious career that culminated in a historic third overall selection in the WNBA draft and the start of her pro career with the Dallas Wings.

Siegrist rewrote the record books and elevated the Wildcats to unprecedented heights, leaving a void that seemed impossible to fill.

As the Villanova Women’s Basketball team steps onto the court for a new season, they face the daunting challenge of forging a future without their star player., but in the midst of this transition, a new hope has emerged in the form of Lucy Olsen.

Olsen is a junior who carries the weight of expectation and promise as the next in line to lead the Wildcats.

However, with pressure comes opportunity, and Olsen is embracing her role as the new torch-bearer and is ready for all the challenges and triumphs that may come with it.

Maddy Siegrist: A historic journey

Before taking the national spotlight in college, she was a relative unknown on the recruiting scene – despite the fact that everyone knew who she was whenever she walked into the gym.

Siegrist was the queen of the court at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and she made opposing defenses her jesters.

No matter the schemes or double teams that came her way, she averaged a whopping 32.7 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, but somehow, she only received only one major college basketball offer – Villanova.

Everyone else’s loss quickly became the Wildcats and Siegrist’s gain.

There was some adversity early, though, as a foot injury forced her to redshirt her freshman season, but it only set the stage for an astronomical rise. Her work ethic with her rehab quickly translated to the court, as she picked up unanimous Big East Freshman of the Year and All-Big East first team honors in her first season.

With each passing season, she raised the bar even higher and shattered expectations and records. By the time she finished up her time as a Wildcat, she had a decorated career that would eventually include two-time Big East Player of the Year, the highest scorer in Villanova men’s and women’s basketball history, and the Big East’s highest scorer in conference play, as well as AP All-American, and now, the highest-drafted basketball player in Villanova women’s basketball and City Six history.

“Winning the game against Florida Gulf Coast to go to the Sweet 16, that was a ton of fun,” said Siegrist, reflecting on some of her proudest moments as a Wildcat. “I mean, Harry [Perretta]’s last game was incredible, beating UConn – I think those are probably the top three most fun games I’ve ever played.”

The list of records Siegrist was able to set would be longer than the feature story itself, but she was able to do so with humility and grace that left a lasting impression on generations to come.

“There is not going to be another Maddy,” said rising junior Lucy Olsen. “She’s one of a kind. [She’s an] awesome teammate, player, and friend off the court. She was just awesome all around.”

After an illustrious career on and off the court at Villanova, Siegrist would go on and set one more record when she was drafted third overall to the Dallas Wings of the WNBA. Incorporating Siegrist’s already exceptional work ethic on the court into the storied Villanova culture sets the stage for future success.

“I think just having so many strong people around me, coaches, they really prepared me for what was next and to have the tools to handle whatever comes next,” said Siegrist of her time at ‘Nova. “I think that has made the transition a lot easier for me.”

This past season she played in 43 of 45 games with the Wings, who reached the WNBA semifinals. She was a key player off the bench as a rookie, averaging 3.7 points and 1.6 rebounds across 8.2 minutes per game.

Maddy Siegrist has formed a permanent bond with the Villanova basketball community that will continue long after her surely successful professional career. While it is being kept under wraps for now, you can certainly expect to see her back on campus in the near future.

“Without saying too much, I think I’ll be around there for a while,” Siegrist said, with a grin. “Villanova is forever going to be a home for me and I’ll go back there forever. So I’ll definitely be around, I talk to those guys all the time. When I was home for All-Star break I made sure I went and watched them play pickup.”

Lucy Olsen: The Heir Apparent

The landscape of college basketball is ever-changing, but one aspect of it that seems to be trending in the right direction is the popularity of women’s sports in the broader lens. In a world of Angel Reeses, Caitlin Clarks and Paige Bueckers, Villanova has a bona-fide superstar waiting in the wings in Lucy Olsen.

Don’t let Olsen’s charismatic personality fool you. Behind the carefree and lighthearted outer shell lies a remarkably competitive adversary whose biggest aversion is losing. Olsen’s competitive nature was apparent as soon as she got on campus and was tested early by teammates.

“I used to see how she would handle it when she first got here,” recalled Siegrist, who spoke extremely highly of Olsen and her potential. “I’d give her a not-super-strong team and see how she was going to handle it. I said, ‘Lucy, you know there is only one person that hates losing as much as you do, maybe more, and that’s me.’”

Olsen arrived at Villanova with a trajectory similar to Siegrist’s, following an illustrious career at nearby Spring-Ford High School.

She was named Pennsylvania’s Miss Basketball and all-state, breaking boys and girls scoring records with 1,699 career points. Her relentlessness on the hardwood also carried over to the tennis court, where she was also crowned state champion. A member of the National Honor Society – she’s demonstrated an ability to excel in any endeavor she undertakes.

As a Wildcat, she’s started in every game since arriving on campus. As a sophomore last season, she earned All-Big 5 first team and All-Big East second team honors. The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 12.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and a team-high 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game last year. Her performance has showcased her early potential, and as she enters her junior season, she stands poised to fully exhibit her talents and potentially make a breakthrough in her career.

“Seeing her grow as a player has been so exciting, I think she is really going to take a jump in the leadership role,” Siegrist said, proudly. “She didn’t really have to for the past couple of years. She was a freshman and a sophomore, but I think this year you’re really going to see that aspect of her game take off. I think we have already seen the on court stuff take off, but I am excited to see her role as a leader.”

Olsen places significant importance on the leadership role.

“I want to be the best leader I can,” said Olsen. “I’m now an upperclassman, I don’t have as many heads to look up to with Maddy and Brooke there, so I think people will be looking at me, so I am going to try to be the best leader I can and that’s what I’ve been working on this summer.”

Olsen possesses all the requisite qualities and intangible attributes necessary for not only a successful college basketball career but also the potential to establish herself as a Villanova legend. While replacing Maddy Siegrist is an exceedingly challenging task, Olsen’s exemplary attitude and skills serve as crucial components in the formula for the next (wo)man up.

The future of Villanova women’s basketball

As the sun sets on an era defined by the remarkable exploits of Maddy Siegrist, Villanova Women’s Basketball finds itself at a crossroads, facing a new season without its beloved star. It’s a scenario that fans, coaches, and players alike knew would eventually come, but the magnitude of Maddy’s departure leaves an undeniable void in the heart of the team.

However, amid this transition, a sense of optimism and determination permeates the Villanova locker room. The torch has been passed to a new generation of players, with Lucy Olsen at the forefront, poised to continue the legacy of excellence that Maddy Siegrist painstakingly crafted over the years.

While Olsen may be at the forefront of the new regime, she is not alone. Christina Dalce is a name to remember this upcoming season as she projects to be an impact player for the Wildcats next season.

“I think everyone is going to step up and I am really excited for Christina,” said Olsen, with ehr patented vibrant and cheerful tone. “I mean, she didn’t play a lot freshman year and then last year she stepped up big time. I think this year she will really take a step up and yeah, we’ve been playing for a lot longer now, I’m learning her ins-and-outs so yeah, I’m excited for her this year.”

Dalce was a force to be reckoned with last season. The Big 5 Most Improved Player started all 37 games for the Wildcats last year, and set a school record for blocked shots in a season with 86. Dalce earned a spot on the USA Basketball women’s 3x3 roster that competed in China this summer with teammate Lucy Olsen.

Aside from Dalce and Olsen, the Wildcats have a lot of depth to be excited about.

“I mean obviously Lucy, Christina Dalce, and Maddie Burke started last year so I would assume they would continue to start,” Siegrist said, when sharing her assessments of this year’s team. “I know they all work really hard and they are going to continue to get better. But I think Bella Runyan, Kaitlyn Orihel, I’ve heard some great things about the freshmen, Zanai Jones, I’m excited to see them, they have a lot of strong players.”

The Wildcats will be under the guidance of head coach Denise Dillon as they enter the 2023-2024 season, which marks her fourth year at her alma mater. Dillon has already achieved an impressive 300 wins in her relatively short tenure as a head coach, spanning both her time at Drexel and Villanova. Her track record suggests she is well-prepared to continue expanding on that win total in the upcoming year.

“She’s a successful person in general, and she’s obviously a successful coach,” Siegrist said. “There was never a game we were in where it was a close game, and she wasn’t like, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ I can’t tell you how many times it has been a close game, and she’s drawn a play and said, ‘Alright, Maddy, you’re going to get a shot right here and take it,’ and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind it was going to work.”

In the world of Villanova Women’s Basketball, the transition from Maddy Siegrist to Lucy Olsen represents a passing of the torch that symbolizes both the end of an era and the dawn of a new one. As we bid farewell to a player who will undoubtedly go down as the best in program history, we find solace in the knowledge that the spirit of excellence and determination lives on in Olsen and the entire Wildcats team.

The future may be uncertain, but one thing is clear – the legacy of Maddy Siegrist will continue to inspire and drive Villanova Women’s Basketball to greater heights.

“We’re just as excited as the fans are, we hate to lose, we’re looking to have some fun this year,” Lucy Olsen exclaimed in her parting message.