March 19, 2011
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A member of the Patriot League champion-Navy women's basketball team will chronicle their thoughts for NavySports.com throughout the NCAA Tournament. Jen Penley writes about how Navy spent Friday in State College and final preparations for the game.
To all our fans:
Today was Jade's birthday!!
This morning at our breakfast in the hotel as we sat at breakfast, myself, Jade, Alix, and Chantel were approached by a woman who congratulated us and wished us good luck. We all then talked about how cool it was that people had been approaching us even as far away as State College, Pa., saying they were rooting for us. The support from everyone beginning at last Saturday's game against American has been immeasurable.
As we walked into the arena for practice, our bags were checked and tagged. We walked toward the locker room and we were the last one on the left marked by a huge NAVY sign. Greeted by free wrist and headbands, free game programs, and free food and drinks, we were like little kids in a toy store! Angela, Cassie, and Jade went with Stef to be formally interviewed while the rest of us came in and were casually interviewed about our season and our matchup against DePaul. We looked at the programs for a while, looking at the other teams and saying, "These teams play basketball with their hair down! We didn't know you could play basketball with your hair down."
ractice was quick. With only 90 minutes on the clock, we did some drills - maybe the best and quickest we have done them all year. We did some 2-on-2 and then started working on how we would defend some of their offenses. Practice had a different feel than other days. Everyone felt the magnitude of the game and knew we would not go down without a fight.
For dinner, we put on our SDB's and went to American Ale House. After we got our food, this family of five with three little girls sat near our table. The oldest of the girls kept looking over at our table and finally I waved at her and then a lot of the table joined in. When Ang, who was sitting across from me, saw her excitement when we waved, we offered the girl to take a picture with us. We got the team together and got the other two sisters to come over and took a picture. The little girl, Stephanie, 11, told us about how she wanted to play basketball but wasn't sure because she played soccer. But we assured her that a lot of girls do both and she should try it cause its the best! Megan and Ansley are now pen pals with these girls. The girls talked about their day and then celebrated Jade's birthday with us!
After dinner, we met in Erin's room to have a team meeting. A Navy lacrosse player, Megan Hughes, had sent us with some motivating articles. In the envelope there was a small hand-written invitation to the NCAA women's basketball championship on April 5th, 2011. Attached, was an article from Sports Illustrated for Kids about Cinderella Stories during March Madness. We read aloud and when they mentioned names of typical underdog teams, we would add in Navy. They talked about the 1983 NC State team and most recently Davidson and Butler. Ending, there were some pumpkin seeds and a hand-written letter about how if we nourish the seeds, they will carry us to the end of March Madness! Erin Edwards
ended the meeting with a motivational speech. She talked about the article on ESPN about how we were going to upset DePaul. The emotion in the room was antsy hopeful. We knew that we could win if we battled hard. Erin said, "Teams do not want to play military academies because they never give up. ESPN talked about the football teams effort against Ohio State for weeks because we played with so much heart and determination. Tomorrow we wear our pride on our sleeve and play for the name on our jersey!" She brought us to a group hug with her speech and herself to tears as we ended the meeting and headed to a late night film session.
After film, we headed to bed and thought about the task ahead and knowing Saturday was game day with the biggest game most of us will ever play in.