A 20th Consecutive Sweet 16 Appearance ahead for the UConn Women..
LIVING EXTENSIONS OF HOOP HISTORY
History continues to extend itself in Storrs, where the UConn women’s basketball team continues to write new standards of excellence. On Saturday the Huskies became the first college basketball team in history to notch eight straight 30 win seasons. Last night they extended their streak of trips to the NCAA tournament’s “Sweet 16″ to 20 years. The last time the Huskies failed to make the “Sweet 16″ was in 1993, when they fell to Louisville in the first round. At that point UConn had yet to win a national championship, having been to just one final four, where they lost in the national semi finals. The next year UConn, featuring such Husky legends as Rebecca Lobo, Jen Rizzotti and Kara Wolters, fell to Cheryl Smith and North Carolina in the regional final in Piscataway, New Jersey and the streak was underway, along with a determination that they would find their way to the final four the next year, which they did, on the way to their first national championship. The last time UConn failed to reach the “Sweet 16″ most of today’s Huskies hadn’t been born. Senior guard Kelly Faris was less than a year old. Today she’s a living extension of that history. “I think there are times when people take it for granted that we get there everytime because it’s expected”, she said, after securing the latest trip to the “Sweet 16″ with a second round win over Vanderbilt at Gampel Pavilion, “That’s what this program is built on. A lot of teams that get to the “Sweet 16″ are just happy to get there and enjoy the moment. For us it’s a little different. We’re expected to get there.” Faris admits to having little knowlege of 20 year old Husky history and she says she didn’t watch much college basketball on T-V when she was playing in high school, and she doesn’t think of continuing that history in terms of pressure. “We’re not about records and streaks”, she says, “The coaches don’t get into all of that, but we know in the back of our minds that’s what the program is about. If you can’t handle that kind of pressure this isn’t the place for you.” Sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis hadn’t been born the last time UConn failed to make the “Sweet 16″ and she says she didn’t start getting into UConn basketball until the Sue Bird era and didn’t really pay close attention until Diana Taurasi. “We feel if we work hard enough and if we play our game we’ll earn our way into the ‘Sweet 16′”, she says, dismissing talk of pressure, “It’s in the UConn legacy, like ‘You guys can’t not make it to the ‘Sweet 16′, you can’t not make it to the final four.’” “To be honest, I didn’t even know about the streak”, says junior center Stefanie Dolson, an admitted UConn historian who was thrilled to be able to meet Lobo, Rizzotti and Wolters, “It’s not something we focus on as a team, but we all come here knowing what type of program and what kind of dynasty we’re going to be part of and there is a little pressure to live up to it.” “I don’t think there’s pressure”, says freshman Breanna Stewart, professing to be unaware of the streak or the fact she hadn’t yet been born when it took root, “We just have really high expectations for ourselves and we want to go out and perform our best and keep things going.” Now they are all extensions of a history that extends to a time before most of them were born. They may not feel the pressure of history, but they can’t help but look back in awe of it all, and their own part in it. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.