Natasha Cloud Blog: How St. Joe's has mentally prepared for UConn

St. Joseph's junior Natasha Cloud reacts during their first round win over Georgia. - Photo by Sideline Photos, LLC.

After a team win against Georgia in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, St. Joseph's junior Natasha Cloud reflects on how the team has mentally prepared to face undefeated UConn in her latest blog for Swish Appeal.


We are advancing to the second round people; I could not be more proud of this team and how we fought tonight!!

Going into the game - like I stated in my previous blog - we were more than prepared, confident, and ready to just get out there and play.

It was an "early bird gets the worm" kind of day up here in beautiful Storrs, Connecticut. We woke up at 7:15am (anyone who knows college students knows that waking up at 7am realistically feels like 5am) for shoot around; normally we struggle with early morning shoot around, but everyone was up and revving to go!

After shoot around we headed to the hotel where we got some much need rest time (AKA nap time!) before we headed to team meal at 1:30. After team meal, we received a little more leisure time before we departed at 3:15 for the arena; Jordan and I sat and watch one of the greatest movies of all time starring my boyfriend Denzel Washington (John Q).

3:15 came and the pre-game emotions started to take over. Our hotel is about 40 minutes away from Gampel, so the ride there served as time for everyone to listen to their music, get in their zone, and mentally go through our game plan. Getting ready and dressed in our locker room, the realization starts to hit you full force: this is it.

All the hard work and dedication, all the sweat and tears, the hours of practice (and I mean hours), has paid off. Putting on the jersey, you realize that this could be the last time that you wear Saint Joseph's across your chest - for the seniors for the rest of your life; for the underclassmen, for the rest of the year.

This is the moment that you dream about as a kid shooting on the court outside of your house. Then, the nervous emotions hit. Any athlete that tells you they do not get nervous before competitions is lying to you! It is one of our natural emotions to be nervous. It is not a bad emotion or weakness to be nervous because nerves show that your heart is in it.

Going out on the court, getting a feel for the environment definitely calmed the nervous emotions down. Warm ups went well. Everyone was hitting shots, communicating, and really hype for the game!

We headed back into the locker room for coaches pregame talk; and it was on point (literally).

We reviewed our game plan and then coach always has a special analogy to give us. Tonight she put pencils on all of our chairs; the point of the pencils was to be sharp (the point), and to play through/erase mistakes (the eraser).

As captains, the theme that we presented to the team was to believe in our abilities, stay within our game, and refuse to lose! It is the first time in the season that I can confidently say that we put together a 40 minute game.

From the opening tip, we hit Georgia with a little Philly basketball. Everyone executed our game plan to a T! We disrupted a very talented, very athletic team both offensively and defensively. The best part about going into games as the underdog is that teams look at you as an easy ticket. But, this team is anything but! I promised you that we would fight, scratch, and claw our way through the game and that is exactly what we did!

When that buzzer went off, it was one of the best feelings that someone can ever feel. We were filled with pride not just because we won, but, because we together as team, accomplished one of our goals; and that was to not just get to the tournament, but to win a game in the tournament.

You may be reading this and thinking to yourself "Are they checked out?" My answer to you is NO! I can promise you that we are not done yet. Our next opponent is the number one team in the nation, but for us, we are taking it as just another game.

Believe me we are so thankful and blessed for the opportunity to compete against the best, but we are not going into this game just to compete - we want to win. We have our game plan intact and we are going to execute to the best of our abilities tomorrow! The celebration of tonight's win will last until midnight, then our focus goes to UCONN!

I am so proud of this team! We want to thank everyone who has supported us through our journey! We play for not only each other, but for our university, our community, our city, our families, and our fans! This journey could not have come to this point if it was not for all our sixth men out there! We truly appreciate everyone that has supported and continues to support; without you, we would not be living our dreams!

For more on the journey St. Joseph's has taken to get to this point, check out the storystream with Natasha Cloud's series of blogs at Swish Appeal. For more on the region as a whole, check out our Lincoln region storystream.

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