The championship game is finally here. The early morning rises at 4:30 am, mile runs and pool workouts all come together to show the hard work we have put in is going to pay off. We were all ready for the challenge we would be facing. Earlier we were able to cheer on our men to victory in the championship game and all were even more excited for the tip off of our game. It was go time! We knew this team very well, probably the best in the league to understand our opponent’s tendencies. I was ready, but most importantly I knew our team would be ready for this game.
Nothing changed for me today for my pre-game ritual. I fell asleep watching TV, but when I was up again I saw I was only out for twenty minutes. Sarah (Hansen) was up from her nap not too long after. We smiled at each other, asking each other if we were ready. Of course the answers were yes and let’s go. We were yelling stuff at each other getting excited just wanting to play. Our assistant coaches (Chelsea Lyles and Abby Sharlow) were next to us and told us earlier this week they heard us getting excited about the North Florida game; this time they decided to bang on the wall which got us more excited.
By the end of the first half we had separated ourselves from them. Coach (Smesko) always reminds us though there are two halves we must play if we want to be a great team and most importantly in this game, be champions. The fight was there however it wasn’t enough for us. They came back on us and took the game from us; they wanted it just a little bit more. Down the stretch they were able to make plays on offense and defense. We made a few stops defensively yet it wasn’t enough and we weren’t able to execute on offense. Opportunities were there but we weren’t able to knock down our shots or finish through contact on our drives.
Once again Joyce (Iamstrong) played a great game. She had a career night in points which down the stretch she did have a lay-up to tie the game up for us with under a minute. I’m proud she’s on my team and tremendously happy for her to be the tournament MVP.
Unfortunately, the Eagles fell short in the biggest game of our season. It was hard to battle in a position we haven’t been in, however at the end of the day I know myself, I know we can’t hang our heads. We are still a great team that will be better from this heart-breaking loss. Our season is not over. I would love to get an at large bid into the tournament if the committee can recognize what this team was able to do through our adversity, if not, we will continue in the WNIT.
No this isn’t the path (playing in the WNIT) I wanted to go down as a senior, but there are plenty of other seniors who aren’t able to play. At the end of the day I know I have great teammates, coaches, trainers, family, friends and fans that are supporting us and want to see us be successful. God has truly blessed all of us and that is all any of us could ever ask for, and I know I am more than thankful for the blessings He has given us.
Back at the hotel my parents came back and brought the other 20 family members that came to watch us play. It meant the world to me they drove to the hotel to be with me, even though I was a wreck -- after not being able to accomplish what we came here to do. Being in my dads’ arm in the lobby warmed my heart, to hear him say he loved me, my mom loved me, and all of them here (and family far) were so proud of me and my teammates -- and we all had to keep our heads high for the great season we have had so far. There is nothing like having family there to give you strength, when you feel at your weakest, with that emptiness in your stomach and heart.
The text messages from my assistant coaches, trainer, teammates, friends and big sister kept me from hanging my head as well. Being able to receive so much love on Facebook made me smile, even with tears in my eyes -- along with a phone call from my best friend to remind me of what has been accomplished this year. Their words brought happy tears to roll down my cheeks. These people have supported me when things are going well and now when they weren’t; true friendships.
My head is high. Our heads are high.
Thank you to all those who have helped me and my teammates get through this loss and supported us during the season. The Eagles aren’t done playing and that makes me extremely proud to be on this team.