I started getting misty a good half-hour before the ceremony, but I was expecting to. This senior class has been so good for us over the last few years- rarely in the big ways, but always, always in the small ways. All three of them are getting their degrees in education, and the world is picking up three very good teachers. So if you don't mind, I'm going to take a few moments to talk about each of them. If you do mind, skip the next four paragraphs.
I love my team so much. So, so much. I have to get to the postseason with them, guys. I can't handle them playing this much of the season without me. I can't take not being there at the end of this crazy, incredible ride.
Victoria Hodges never really got the chance to show what she had for us. Nagging injuries shut her down three out of four years. When she did get to play, she showed good court sense and a lot of potential. She's made the transition to assisting on the bench so smoothly someone once mistook her for the head coach. Just because she hasn't been able to help us the way she would have liked on the court, that doesn't mean she hasn't been a part of our success. I'll always remember her fondly as the first player I ever got a scouting report on.
Kelly McManmon transferred in from Indiana during a rough patch (the year she sat out was the year after the tournament year, when things went to hell in a handbasket somewhat. She's been solid ever since. Everyone talks about her automatic three-point shot- as well they should, as she will leave St. John's with more three-point field goals than any Johnnie and is one of the top three-point shooters in the country right now- but what I've always liked about her is her ability to make big plays on the endline and the sideline. It's been a pleasure to watch her mature as a person and a player. I'm going to miss her- and her folks, who would drive out from Massachusetts religiously to see her games. (I still owe Mrs. McManmon twenty bucks for dinner after the Stony Brook game- we'll have to settle up at the tournament.)
I could have written an entire post on Joy McCorvey. You know all the clichés coaches like to whip out about players? She really is the player who does all the little things, who keeps her teammates in the game, who is unselfish and always looking for her teammates, who gives up her body to make the play. She's also one of the nicest, warmest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. She's going to be a coach someday- at least, I hope so, because otherwise that's a wasted slot in the "So You Want To Be A Coach" workshop- and she'll be a great coach, and an excellent role model.
Oh, jeez. Here I go again. It's Senior Day, not the end of the world; there are at least three more games to the season. The ride's not over yet.
The Senior Day ceremony was quite moving. I don't know how Kelly didn't cry. Victoria and Joy definitely did. I lost it again there.
This was the PinkZone game, much to my annoyance (yes, I have a shirt, no, I'm not putting it on; it's Senior Day and I'm wearing team colors, if you have a problem with that, I really don't care unless you attempt to kick me out of the arena), and while they stressed the living daylights out of the pinkness of it, the turnout was still fabulous. They really did a great job of getting people into the arena for this one, and I think it made a difference. The only problem I had with the seating was that they got a little too enthusiastic about putting the clinic kids in seats, so they filled the section behind the visitors' bench. Unfortunately, there were a whole bunch of Nova fans there who ended up sitting in front of us, thus robbing us of our legroom and our view at the same time. They were troopers, though. I have to hand it to them; the only time any of them got annoyed at us was when I accidentally catapulted my pen at one of them, and they stayed enthusiastic for their team all the way through the blowout.
An excellent anthem by, of all people, the women's volleyball coach. Not exactly a profession that lends itself to sweet voices with emotional vibrato.
Sarah Jones has some sweet shot, as well as nerves of steel. I think she's going to be a great leader for that team, if she isn't already. I'm also high on redshirt freshman Laura Sweeney. I like that she's got a big mobile body and range for her size. Unlike a lot of Perretta's players, she's also not afraid to go inside to get physical. She and Coco Hart mixed it up a little. I was surprised that Perretta didn't go to his bench more, unless there just aren't any more players to go to- as far as we stretched that lead, there were a lot of opportunities to get some players time.
I... really wasn't impressed by the Villanova starters. Like, at all. Kyle Dougherty looked like she was taking out her frustrations at being named Kyle on my team. She was close to throwing elbows once or twice. Rachel Roberts got good looks, but couldn't get them to go down. Shannon Elliott didn't have a bad game- like Sweeney, I like Elliott's build and range. We did a real number on Maria Getty. It was good.
Villanova fans, I'm sorry. I'm desperately trying to recall things about half your team, but a lot of them weren't memorable. They just weren't ready for our defense.
Because it was Senior Day, Kelly started for Shenneika. That didn't mean Shenneika didn't play close to her normal minutes, and she put on a show. She's starting to display a real knack for getting that shot at the end of the clock to go down, or at least draw iron to reset the shot clock. I love having that player. I love having that player be a freshman even more, because that means we'll have her longer. Eugeneia bounced back from a couple of awful games. She goes full throttle all the time, and her vertical is absolutely sick. She had a couple of great defensive plays. You will see this sentence a lot. Coco worked her tail off on the boards and had some absolutely ridiculous lay-ups go in. We even got to see Buzz and Jennifer get some work in. Buzz labored under the mistaken belief that St. John's still has a football team when she all but tackled Roberts from Nova. Jennifer's footwork needs work, but she got a nice defensive board and looks like she's picking up her defensive game.
Da'Shena was on fire. She crashed the boards hard- we were sure she had a double-double, though she only finished with seven rebounds. She, Coco, Eugeneia, and Kelly, at various times, were savage and merciless in the backcourt trap. Sky still can't hit water without falling out of a boat, but she got down for a couple of good defensive plays. Nadirah ran a solid game and had a few great defensive plays on loose balls. Kelly didn't really affect the game much on offense, though we all cheered when she added yet another trey to her collection, but she was another key part of the defense. Joy started the game absolutely inspired, working it on the boards and going hard in the paint. She got tagged with a lot of bad turnovers where she didn't really have possession of the ball, so how exactly could she turn it over if she didn't have it? Near the end of the game, she started looking for her shot more than usual. I think it finally hit her that she was allowed to look for herself for once. And it was good.
It's so hard to describe the energy that was in the building today. We were determined that not only were we going to beat Villanova, we were going to send our seniors off right. I've never seen our team so hyped up for a game, both during warm-ups and during the game itself. They were ferocious, fearless, and merciless. If they can keep up this level of intensity, or at least this kind of pressure, into postseason play... I wouldn't want to be the team who faces us.
In addition to being Senior Day and PinkZone, this was Alumnae Day. Shoutout to Kia Wright, the great point guard from the last tournament run- and if that was Mercedes Dukes she was sitting with, then shoutout to the sparkplug from that same run. Also, shoutout to Recee Mitchell, who would have been in this senior class if she hadn't transferred before the season. The one piece this team is missing is an enforcer, and six-foot-one of broad-shouldered Texas bad-ass would have fit nicely into that slot in our post rotation. Watch out, SWAC.
The referees really let 'em play today. I didn't necessarily mind, but the Villanova guards kept trying to get piggyback rides from our team, and they couldn't have them. One thing I really liked- and I've seen it before from Janice Aliberti- was the communication among the officials, and from the officials to the players and coaches. Their signals were crisp and prompt, keeping everyone apprised of the situation at all times. They were on top of some tough calls. Hats off to Aliberti, Humphrey, and Zentz.
The idea of this being the last home game is close to making me tear up again. When did I turn into so much of a soppy girl? But if you've got a chance to see this team, do it. I don't know how many times I've had to say this, but I'm going to keep doing so.