March 18, 2012
Members of the two-time Patriot League champion Navy women's basketball program have chronicled their thoughts and activities over the last week as the team prepared to play in its second consecutive NCAA Tournament. Team captain Erin Edwards wrote today's final entry in the series. The lone senior on the squad, Edwards played in over 100 career games, made over 100 career three-point field goals and leaves as the Navy record holder for the most career Patriot League Tournament victories. An English major, Edwards received Navy pilot as her service assignment.
After a week of practice, game day had finally arrived. Friday night I had set my alarm for 0645 and prepped for bed as usual, but it was no use. I tossed and turned in my big, comfy hotel bed all night long. My mind was racing with thoughts of what tomorrow would or could bring. The team watched the Lehigh men's game the night before where Lehigh, a No. 15 seed and Patriot League Champs, beat Duke, a No. 2 seed and member of the ACC, proving to us that a victory is possible! I could not get that game out of my head. Finally, I willed myself to sleep for what felt like a mere 15 minutes before Zac Brown Band played on my phone to awake me and my roommate, Jen Penley. We dressed and headed for breakfast, grabbing everything we would need for the game.
I usually have a big appetite, especially at pregame meal (four hours before the game) but that morning I hardly ate more than three bites. My stomach was in knots with anticipation, preventing me from devouring the eggs and hash browns before me. The players and coaches quickly converted the breakfast room into the film room by pushing our chairs together and displaying the projector against the large, white wall. Each player was given a scout on Maryland. Silence spread across the room as we carefully read each word about our opponent. Once everyone was finished reading, film commenced. Stef talked and we listened as the highlight reel of the Terps played. Seeing their credentials in the same, familiar format we have used to prepare for every Patriot League team and watching what they can do as well as how other teams have been successful, we were ready.
We boarded the bus and headed to a nearby high school for a walk through of Maryland's offenses where we would discuss how we wanted to play against it. The team was focused but in an up-beat mood, ready to have fun together as we looked to take on the ACC Champs. There was just a short bus ride to the arena, check-in with security, and the switch from travel sweats to our uniforms that stood in between us and our second NCAA Tournament appearance in a row! The Navy Women's Basketball Team could not have been more excited!!
As we met in the locker room for the final time before tip-off we reminded each other that we have nothing to lose in this game! We were going to be confident and not intimidated by the size of our foe. Our goal was to "Hang Around" and frustrate the Terps with our hustle and determination. What we had worked for all season came down to the next 40 minutes, when we left that locker room, so we had no choice but to leave our hearts on that court.
That's just what we did in the first half. The game was in reach and we were right where we wanted to be! We knew the first four minutes of the second half would be crucial, but so did Maryland when they came out running on our missed shots. Despite the 15-point loss (59-44), it was not an easy game for the Terrapins as the Navy Midshipmen battled and forced them to work hard for the win. We played hard until the final possession as the clock ran down and my teammates and I exchanged hugs on the court. For me, I was wishing maybe the clock would stop, or break for that matter and somehow, someway the game would have to be played all over again because I knew the moment that horn went off and I stepped off that court and out of my uniform, that was the end. I thought about how the memories and bonds I had created on the court over the past four years would stop. So in that moment I just wanted to tell my teammates how much I care for them and truly loved every minute with them this season. It was an honor to be called the captain of such a young, determined team that never gave up and was able to make history grabbing another Patriot League Championship.
There were many tears in the locker room, not just for the loss, but for the end to a great season. The team huddled a final time. It was hard for any of us to speak without being upset but Jade Geif was able to express that the loss hurt so badly because of our belief in our team's abilities and how badly we wanted it. We brought our hands in and said the word "Family" at the end together because that's what we truly have become. After the press conference with Jade and Stef, I took the time to hug my assistant coaches, athletic trainer, equipment manager, sports information guy, officer representative, and senior administrator and tell them how thankful I have been for everything they've done for me. Next, I would face my teammates for one final speech. I told them that it was overwhelming to think I will never put my Navy jersey on again or sing Blue and Gold on the court at the end of the game, BUT, it was more overwhelming to think that never again will I work hard beside them at practice day in and day out. Basketball is what brought us together, our hard work and attitudes and love for the game are the reason we were put in that locker room, in those Navy uniforms, together, however, the game flies by in a blink of an eye and it's the relationships we have built that will remain. That is the number one thing the Navy Women's Basketball Team has provided me with and what I will have for the rest of my life.
I am so thankful to each individual in the entire program and especially to the fans that have cheered us to victory for the second year in a row! We appreciate your support more than you can ever know, so thank you, thank you, thank you! The future of Navy Women's Basketball is bright! Stef has shown us the path to victory and I have no doubt she will continue improving these young women on and off the court. I cannot wait to watch and see what comes next for these amazing young women ... their capabilities are endless!