The best way to explain the UAA women’s basketball team would be to describe it as unfinished business. Last season we came up short in a heartbreaking loss in the first round to eighth ranked Point Loma Nazarene University. We had entered into the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 team in the nation with high expectations.
The unexpected loss left my teammates and me with an empty feeling. We knew we never wanted that feeling again. After that game, we all made a commitment to stay here in Anchorage for the summer and work on our game together so we would not come up short for our senior year. It was really tough not being able to go back home to Southern California, but knowing it was my last year of playing college basketball, I had to make that sacrifice.
From the beginning of the season in August, we were on a mission. There were struggles at the beginning in regard to figuring out personal roles on the team, such as being a shooter, energy player, or a defensive player. We each would have to sacrifice as an individual player for the good of the team. As we moved forward into league games our goal was to win back-to-back league titles as well as win the conference tournament. These two goals were not easy. We took an early loss in the beginning of the season to Western Washington University and went on a 19-game winning streak before losing again to Simon Fraser on senior night. Even with these two losses we were able to accomplish our goals, but it made us aware that if we didn’t show up we could be beaten.
It was time for postseason: survive and advance. All season long we were ranked No. 1 in the West region and were fully expecting to host the tournament. Unfortunately, the committee put us at No. 2 and Azusa Pacific University as the No. 1 seed, so we were sent packing to Azusa, California. I would have to say the decision that UAA would not host the tournament made us upset and we felt disrespected, but it also gave us a chip on our shoulder to go out there and win the West regional tournament.
We were nervous for our first-round game because of last year, but were able to make a big statement with a 20-point win over Cal State Dominguez Hills. Each game was a battle but our biggest battle was against Cal Baptist in the second round. Our overtime win was the most exciting in the tournament and once we got through that game it gave us even more fire to keep on dancing in March.
The Elite Eight was an incredible experience. It was located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Our journey there was very exciting. We had a chartered flight both to and from Sioux Falls, and played in an arena that recalled older times, with shiny hardwood floors, dim lights and deluxe lockers. We were only two games from to our goal, which was getting the chance to play in the national championship game. Those two games were critical, and we faced two Cinderella teams who were on a roll. We beat Francis Marion in the Elite Eight and Grand Valley State in the Final Four. We had an awesome crowd that traveled to Sioux Falls and had great support back in Anchorage. The Peanut Farm was packed with fans. When we came home our fans pumped us up and showed a lot of support. They even introduced us at the Alaska High School State Championship game.
The national championship was located in Indianapolis. All three NCAA levels of women’s basketball were playing in the same arena for the first time ever. They treated us as if we were professional basketball players. We had police escorts everywhere and stayed in a five-star hotel. We had an amazing time going to the Salt-N-Pepa concert, the Indy 500 race track, and eating mouth-watering foods, such as steak, shrimp cocktails, southern fried chicken and peach cobbler. Despite some distractions that were going on in downtown Indianapolis, we were on a mission. It came down to two top teams in the nation: No. 1 Lubbock Christian University and No. 2 University of Alaska Anchorage. I couldn’t think of any way to end my career that would be better than getting the chance to play in a national championship game. All game long we fought and never gave up. Although we came up short, I couldn’t be any prouder of this season. We broke several NCAA, conference, and UAA records and put Alaska on the map for women’s basketball.
As I close this chapter of my basketball career I wouldn’t imagine any better way to end it than this past season. It was a memorable season that we had, and the amount of support that we received was astonishing with us making more fans, including those who watched us at the national tournament. All four coaches have been a great influence on me, helping me overcome all my struggles on and off the court and helping me become a better person. My teammates have also been my sisters throughout my college career, and I truly consider them a lifetime family. I would also like to thank the athletic staff and administration with their support for our program.
I’ll always be a Seawolf.