I posted this on the Hoop Club blog but I'm trying to circulate it wherever possible because, well, they do.
The Unsung Heroes of the Hilltop
I arrived on the Hilltop in the fall of 2002 a hardcore fan of men's college basketball but just a casual women's basketball fan. I knew UConn, Tennessee and Stanford but not much else. Over my four years, I attended games sporadically in McDonough but other than future WNBA player Rebekkah Brunson, I never found much to inspire any lasting dedication. Changes were quickly apparent though upon the hiring of Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy in 2004 shortly after John Thompson III took over the men's team. The entire women's program seemed to grow up over night. Gone were the raffles during timeouts and a plodding offense that lived behind the arc and instead there was a faster, fiercer team driving opponents mad with a ferocious full court press. The improved game on the court led to recruiting victories off it with Coach Flo quickly having her pick of the DC area's elite players.
The new look Hoyas certainly grabbed my attention and I found myself going to more and more games as time progressed. A run to the elite 8 in the 2009 Women's NIT and talk of a hot incoming shooting guard named Sugar Rodgers gave me high hopes for the 2009-10 season. Boy did the Lady Hoyas deliver. After struggling in their first three games the Hoyas then put together a remarkable 16 game winning streak including a win at previously unbeaten Syracuse and a hard-fought victory over Louisville (the 2009 national runner-up) in McDonough. The Lady Hoyas capped off an undefeated home season with a decisive 76-66 win over Notre Dame on Senior Day in front of a sellout crowd. The atmosphere that day was absolutely electric and surely contributed to the biggest win in Lady Hoya history. The Hoyas' second round loss to Baylor in the NCAA Tournament was a heartbreaker but was definitely a sign of even more good things to come. Sugar Rodgers raked in the accolades including BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and an Honorable Mention AP All-American designation. In addition, Coach Flo was named Female Coach of the Year by the Black Coaches and Administrators.
Expectations for the Hoyas are incredibly high this season but I know they are more than up to the task. And while Sugar Rodgers leads the highlight reel most nights, each member of the Lady Hoyas has their shining moments. Whether it is a clutch rebound on defense, a crucial free throw at the end of the game or even starting cheers from the bench, every single team member contributes something special. Say what you want about them but these girls have guts.
Tuesday night's 53-45 victory over Maryland was a microcosm of Lady Hoyas basketball - there will be some tense moments but the Hoyas will never give up and will fight through any obstacle that enters their path. Sugar Rodgers was the star of the game especially with her clutch shooting down the stretch but Rubylee Wright was definitely the unsung hero. Suffering through leg cramps during most of the 2nd half (and getting massaged every timeout), Rubylee was tenacious on both ends of the court and we could not have won the game without her. The turnout by both students and fans alike was one of the best I've seen in 8 years of attending games in McDonough.
Along with last year's victory over Notre Dame, Tuesday's game showed what every game in McDonough could be like with more support for a well-deserving team. We have the potential to have one of the best home court advantages in the country. Please come see the Lady Hoyas and help keep their 17 game home winning streak going by coming out to McDonough on Friday night to see the Hoyas take on LaSalle. Tipoff is at 7PM. I hope to see each and every one of you at a game this season. The Lady Hoyas need and more importantly, deserve our support.