The week of the MAC tournament had finally arrived and this time we were on a mission. Taking it one game at a time, we were focused and ready for our last chance as the senior class to make history and become CHAMPIONS.
The first game was Thursday and we played Toledo. I was nervous; then again I am always nervous. Toledo is experienced in the tournament; they come from a winning program, so we knew we had to be ready.
We came out pumped and we were on fire! Everyone was making shots and we went into halftime with a 20 point lead. We knew we had a 40 minute game and we had to finish strong, that's just what we did. One game down, two to go.
We got back to the hotel and we all got in the dreaded ice baths to get ready for an up-tempo game with Central Michigan on Friday. Finally, we get another shot at Central. We headed up to film to see what we were going to do to stop such a strong team.
We found out Wednesday that Crystal Bradford, MAC Player of the Year, was injured in practice Tuesday and cannot play. She is crucial to their team; however, they have so many great players we knew it was going to be a battle. We still had to play a full game to win and we were ready. Our coaches put together a new game plan and we said we were not losing to them again.
It was finally Friday, time for game #2. We slept in and didn't have a walk through, we know Central Michigan's personnel just like they know us. We know their offense; we just need to follow the game plan. We normally take a nap after pregame meal but we were so excited there was no way I could fall asleep.
Rachel Tecca is my roommate and we just sat there talking. We talked about how this is it, this is our last chance, and we can't get to the championship game if we don't beat Central. I kept thinking about what I needed to, running every scenario through my head. It was game time.
The game started out fast. They jumped on us quickly and were up by 10. Being a veteran team we didn't panic and knew we needed to make our run. We went into halftime tied and had 20 minutes left to get one step closer to our goal. The second half we came out strong and finally got a 10 point lead and didn't look back. We finally beat Central and we were one step closer to our goal. Two games down, one to go.
We got back to the hotel after the game and did what we needed to do for recovery. We went to Coach Kest's room and watched film to prepare for Ball State. We had to do what we do best, which is run the floor. They had played 5 games in 6 days and we knew that could be an advantage for us. I was ready, the team was ready.
Finally the sunlight came through my window on Saturday morning. I barely slept Friday night, I'm not sure if anyone on the team really slept. I kept picturing the championship. I kept picturing the confetti falling, holding the trophy, cutting down the nets, and of course wearing the hat. We are so close, and now we just had to go get it. We were leaving the hotel room and I told Rachel, "Next time we come back to this room we will be MAC champions."
We arrived at Quicken Loans Arena and the whole team was pumped up. We went on the court too early and had to wait a few minutes to touch the basketballs. We huddled up and kept saying one game. One game left to reach our goal. This is what we have waited a year for, and what the university has waited 40 years for. It was time to bring a championship to Akron for women's basketball and that's what we were going to do.
We went into the locker room and Coach Kest told us to play our game, use the experience we have to our advantage and that our time is now. Coach Jackson told us we can sleep tomorrow, to go out there and give it everything that we have. We ran out of the locker room and there were so many fans.
When I first came to Akron I think the only people in the stands were our parents. Four years later, we are playing for a league title and Quicken Loans Arena feels like a home game at the JAR. My heart was racing, it was game time.
We took control of the game and never lost the lead. Ball State is a tough team and battled till the very end. The whole game I felt comfortable. I knew that if we did what we do best we will win this game. The final minute was ticking down and I knew we were champions. I was full of so many emotions. The game clock hit 00:00 and the moment I had been waiting my entire life for was happening.
I hugged my teammates and coaches and couldn't wait to hug all of my family. I had a few happy tears and was almost speechless. They were handing out our medals and the trophy and I looked into the stands to take it all in. The confetti started falling and I can honestly say that it was the best moment of my life.
Four years ago when we came into the program we said we were going to be MAC Champions, and we did it. We were able to make history and I feel honored to be a part of this team.
Another journey begins when we find out who we play in the NCAA Tournament. We hope to add a little more history to the books. A new mission begins this week. It's time for the Zips to go dancing!