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New life breathed into women's City Game

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 11:34 p.m.

Duquesne women's basketball coach Dan Burt is used to hearing the questions about Sunday's game against Pitt.

So are his players.

They've been hearing them since before the season began.

The annual City Game was already an anticipated date on the calendar each year, and it has a new element as the first meeting between the crosstown rivals since Suzie McConnell-Serio left Duquesne to coach the Panthers last spring.

“I've been asked that question more than any question I've been asked,” Burt said. “It's a situation where our kids are certainly always ready to play Pitt because of the rivalry.

“I think the fact that Suzie chose to go to the school down the street just enhances it. But there's no ill will. We want the best for them, and we root for them when they're not playing Duquesne. But when we strap it up on (Sunday), it's going to be a very good game.”

McConnell-Serio coached Duquesne for the past six seasons and turned the program into a contender in the Atlantic 10.

The Dukes had at least 20 wins in each of the past five seasons and have advanced to the postseason WNIT the past five years.

But the opportunity to coach at Pitt and in the ACC was one that McConnell-Serio could not turn down. She replaced Agnus Berenato as Panthers coach April 12 and is charged with turning a program around again.

After finishing last season 9-21, Pitt is 7-6 going into Sunday's game.

McConnell-Serio said she doesn't expect it to be an emotional game.

“Only because I'm very happy where I am and have a great situation, and I just think that makes a big difference for me going into this game,” she said. “I'm excited about the future of our program and what we can build at Pitt.”

April Robinson, her former point guard at Duquesne, believes differently.

“It's going to be an emotional game,” said Robinson, a sophomore.

Olivia Bresnahan, who transferred from Florida State and made her Duquesne debut a week ago after sitting out the required year, agreed with Robinson.

“I think we're all just finally excited to get in the game and play this one because everyone's been asking us about the Pitt game,” she said. “They overlook our whole schedule and take it right to that one: ‘I bet you're excited to play that one.' Of course we're excited to play. It's going to be like our second Christmas present.”

Duquesne is 8-4 after a disappointing 88-80 loss to West Virginia before Christmas. They open the A-10 season Wednesday hosting St. Bonaventure. Pitt opens the ACC season hosting Florida State on Thursday.

Burt believes the interest in Sunday's game and the rivalry moving forward will be good for girls basketball in Western Pennsylvania.

“We have our local players and they'll get a couple in the future, but we're real excited because high school and middle school girls in the area can really benefit from seeing a really good, intense rivalry,” he said.

“I really think that will benefit girls basketball as a whole in the area.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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