This – this is why we cover sports. Stories like these. Teams like these. Groups we can get behind not just because of loyalty to a school or program – but because of the people involved.
What the Husky women’s basketball team has done by reaching the Final Four is unprecedented and unexpected. But the individual personalities – from the coaches to the players – are what makes watching them so much fun. For the last two weeks, they’ve played with an enthusiasm that’s contagious. A chemistry that’s likable. And a belief that only gets stronger as the challenges become greater.
And with some of the pieces that make up this team – it’s really not surprising.
Coach Mike Neighbors has survived two heart attacks. Katie Collier overcame cancer in high school – and then a torn ACL. Chantel Osahor was flipped onto the hood of a car while riding her bike during her freshman year. In the NCAA Tournament, they say you “survive and advance.” But the word survival in that regard is small beans to what they’ve already overcome.
The word “grit” is thrown around a lot lately. But this team has it. You saw it in the Pac-12 Tournament when they pushed Oregon State to the edge.
You then saw it when they went to Maryland and beat a top-five team on their home court. And then Kentucky in Kentucky. Overcoming adversity has become this team’s forte.
And while the odds have been against them, the players refused to believe it. They refused to (clears throat) “bow down” to conventional wisdom. They played with a thin rotation, with one player who buries 3’s without leaving her feet. And they took an early 13-point lead today without one of the best players in the country, Kelsey Plum, scoring a single point. When Stanford focused on her, everyone else stepped up.
This time of year is all about the underdog. Keep telling them they are. Keep telling them they’re not supposed to be there – because no one picked them to advance this far.
Because regardless of perception, their legacy to this point is already set in stone: The first Final Four team in program history. And in Indianapolis next week, their legend can grow even more.