The Drake Women’s basketball team will be heading into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on a three-game winning streak, as the Bulldogs picked up two close home wins on March 5 and 6 against a tough Valparaiso team. While the conference’s second-ranked Bulldogs did not expect to receive such a strong fight out of the seventh-ranked Valparaiso, the two home wins represented what graduate forward Monica Burich called “perseverance.” “If you were around to watch, you would see that we were not one hundred percent ourselves,” Burich said. “We just made mistakes that we usually don’t make. However, what these wins showed me is our willingness to win.” The mistakes Burich referred to were the consistent turnovers from the Bulldogs, where they displayed a 50:24 ratio to Valpo between the two games. Head coach Jennie Baranczyk addressed the mistakes. “The way Valpo plays defense, they do a great job,” Baranczyk said. “We just have to take care of the ball and make better decisions. We’ll add some more variety to our offense.” March 5’s contest showed the usual flashes of Drake’s dominance, with Burich, Maggie Bair, Grace Berg, and Allie Wooldridge helping the Bulldogs out-rebound Valpo 41-22 and outscore them 77-67. Berg and Bair proved to be a powerful duo, as Berg recorded a career-high nine assists while complimenting 15 points to Bair’s 16. However, Valpo continued to try and chip away at Drake’s lead throughout the game, with guard Shay Frederick going 4-9 for three and scoring 16 points in the process. Baranczyk accredited Frederick’s performance. “She’s one of the best in the conference,” Baranczyk said. “She’s crafty, so you got to key in on her. We needed to guard her a bit better.” In the end though, Drake’s bench proved to be the deciding factor in the win, as guard Sara Beth Gueldner drained 13 points, most of them from the three-point line, during crucial moments of the game. Heading into March 6, Valpo proved to be even more of a formidable opponent, as forwards Caitlin Morrison and Carie Weinman added a combined 27 points to Frederick’s 23 total. Add the continued turnovers and a slow offensive start for the Bulldogs, and the stage was set for a thrilling overtime in the Knapp Center. However, Drake starting forward Maddie Monahan helped the Bulldogs persevere and win with an impressive 17 points while going 5-9 from three. Monahan explained the confidence she was feeling with her three ball. “You know, once you hit a couple shots, your confidence kind of goes up,“ Monahan said. “If the ball comes into my hands and I get an open shot, I gotta take that.” The clutch overtime win was a touching tribute to the last regular seasons games of departing players Burich and Mya Mertz. Baranczyk and Monahan expressed the impact the ladies had on the program. “Monica and Mya are the heart and soul of the team,” Baranczyk said. “They are great leaders for us.” Burich touched on Baranczyk’s impact herself. “She’s one of the most outstanding women I’ve ever spent my life with,” Burich said. “She’s done so much for me, and I’m just so grateful for her – for her giving me my love for the game, on and off the court.” Monahan addressed the impact Burich and Mertz had on the team. “They come in every single day, wanting to get better,” Monahan said. “They bring a lot of communication to this team, so I think that’s what we’re going to miss. They’re really great people off the court as well.” Burich mentioned how excited she was to see where the future lies with the Women’s team. “It’s truly just the tipping point,” Burich said. “They totally bought into the culture, in everything we do and stand for. I just can’t wait to follow along and see them grow and flourish.” But it’s not the end just yet. The Women’s basketball team will be heading to the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Iowa to face off in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, “Hoops in the Heartland,” from March 11 to 14. Tip off for the tournament begins at 4:30 p.m. CST. The game will feature no fans, but streaming can be found on ESPN+.