What Kind of Lasting Impression Did Historic Husker Team Have on You?
Randy York's N-sider
To "Respond to Randy" click on the link below and choose "Randy York's N-Sider" under "Area of Interest" on the new screen. Please include your name and city/town/state and share your thoughts on the Nebraska women's record-breaking basketball season. Your comments may be published.
The most historic basketball season in Nebraska history ended at the Sprint Center in Kansas City Sunday night, and Husker women's fans everywhere might have gone to bed asking themselves at least one important question before they turned off their televisions, radios, computers, cell phones and lights after a 76-67 loss to Kentucky.
Like this one: What kind of lasting impression did this record-breaking Husker team have on me?
If you take just a minute or two to think about all the trailblazing accomplishments the Huskers packed into the past five months, you know that this was more than the program's most memorable season ever.
It was a season that built a new foundation with talented, courageous, unselfish, mentally tough players who competed for each other from opening tip last November to final buzzer last night.
The Huskers' six seniors "have truly been a joy to coach because they've done it the right way," said Connie Yori, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's choice as 2010 National Coach-of-the-Year.
The Huskers, therefore, "will not be remembered for this game," Yori said. "They will be remembered for making history in Nebraska basketball."
This Team Broke Molds and Opened Doors
Yes indeed. Yori insists she didn't just coach basketball players. She coached "great people," and she is understandably proud of what they mean to the entire state. In taking Nebraska to a place the Huskers have never been before in men's or women's basketball, Yori's team broke molds and opened doors.
The Huskers worked unbelievably hard, showed remarkably sustainable discipline and pushed themselves to the limits of their potential all season long. Playing in what most coaches consider the nation's most power-packed conference from top to bottom, Nebraska finished the regular season unbeaten and earned a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed.
The Huskers beat Baylor (65-56) in Waco and Oklahoma (80-64) in Norman while winning the conference regular-season race by five games. The Bears and the Sooners reflect the strength of that amazing accomplishment because both made the Final Four in San Antonio.
The Huskers not only won big games in big ways, but also managed to win lots of hearts and stir extraordinary interest along the way. At the Alliance Chamber of Commerce Banquet in mid-February, about 160 Husker fans were fixated on several TVs when Nebraska started its comeback at Kansas. Banquet organizers made sure the emcee announced the score as soon as the game was final. The ovation represented a community that will be keeping constant tabs on Husker women's basketball when it sends Jordan Hooper, one of its own, to Lincoln this summer.
Big Red spirit even made its way into a large South Lincoln Hy-Vee store, which decided to pipe in Matt Coatney's play-by-play so grocery shoppers could listen to Nebraska keep its unbeaten streak alive on a Saturday afternoon game at K-State in early March.
No wonder "You Betcha!" has become a signature expression for the growing list of fans that enjoy listening to Coatney and Jeff Griesch on the Huskers Sports Network.
Coatney and Griesch were, after all, the ones who chronicled the team's thousand-mile journey - an odyssey that began with single-step exhibition games against Pittsburg State and Nebraska-Kearney early last November. Those steps became big leaps and giant bounds with decisive wins over a steady diet of nationally ranked teams - wins that proved the basketball gods were not crazy, so a nation took notice. Suddenly, the Huskers were the cover story in USA Today, a feature story in Sports Illustrated and going prime time on ESPN.
Even Nebraska's two largest daily newspapers sent their top columnists on the road to cover Nebraska women's basketball in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments.
It was hard to count the days when the Huskers were making every day count. Yori kept telling everyone that she loves what her players stand for, and her players kept telling everyone how much they love to practice, how much they love to compete and how much they love each other.
To be honest, one loss in the Sweet 16 before nearly 5,000 of your most loyal fans will never change first impressions - only enhance them.
Yori Sees the Beauty in Season's Success
Sweet is an interesting word at work here because in athletics and in life, the things that are often the hardest to bear will end up being the sweetest to remember.
It's been said that everything - even a loss that produces heavy-duty emotion - has a certain beauty, but not everyone sees it.
Through all that emotion, Yori no doubt saw the beauty inherent in all six seniors - and everyone else - who were so crushed to see the curtain come down on the season three games ahead of schedule. They wanted to remember the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, not watch the lights go out in KC's Power and Light District.
A head coach, of course, almost always sees the big picture better than players who have just had their hearts broken, especially when that coach has seen every player she's ever recruited at Creighton or Nebraska get her college degree. Talk about a leader who has academic and life priorities in perfect alignment with athletic goals.
You don't need a post-game press conference to know what Yori believes deep down inside.
First, there's no way to measure all the hours her players studied when they weren't practicing or playing and all the autographs they signed for little kids who waited in lines to see their new heroes. Secondly, there is no better way to lay the foundation for the power of positive thinking than what this team has done, even if their season fell short of what they all envisioned.
When six seniors leave a legacy that will always be there, you remind yourself that they also laid the groundwork that enabled their coaches to recruit the best players in such states as Washington and Arizona. If touted recruits understand the magnetic power of hard work, selfless leadership and wholesale support in Lincoln, Nebraska, fans should understand that power, too.
Ask Jordan Hooper, perhaps this state's best-ever girls' high school basketball player. The Alliance senior didn't choose a Nebraska basketball scholarship over a Husker volleyball offer to become a household name. She chose NU to become part of a tight-knit family that believes in aggressive goals, ultra-intense effort and all the values that define exceptional teamwork.
Great Expectations Evolved with Each Win
It may be worth remembering that this magical season came after last year's 15-16 record, so in the 2009-10 preseason polls, the Huskers didn't even rank among the top six in the conference. As the wins piled up at a record rate, though, logic got lost in the avalanche of great expectations.
Immediately after the Huskers lost their first game - to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Tournament - we posted a poll on Huskers.com, asking fans how many games they saw Nebraska winning in the NCAA Tournament. Of the 4,041 who voted, the largest number - 1,085 - thought the Huskers would win them all, even though they would be on a collision course with UConn, which some already consider the greatest college women's basketball team of all time.
Those great expectations somehow seem to reflect how much this team captivated Nebraska fans who relished watching contorted bank shots from Kelsey Griffin and a rain of threes from Vonnie Turner and Cory Montgomery. They also loved to watch freshman Lindsey Moore run the team at point, and weren't surprised at all when junior Dominique Kelley scored a total of 44 points against UCLA and Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
Even though Nebraska will lose its most productive senior class in Husker history, you can't help but ask: Does the future look bright with new faith in the foundation and new faces poised to add more facts and figures to that foundation?
You know the answer.
Voices from Husker Nation
As noted in your example, Alliance Chamber of Commerce banquet attendees were fixated on televisions during the game at Kansas because western Nebraskans fell in love with the Lady Huskers this year. And not just because of 32 victories. We fell in love because the Lady Huskers reflected western Nebraska values: Hard work and a never-say-die attitude. Alliance basketball fans will be glued to radios and televisions next winter, too, when our Jordan Hooper trades in her Bulldog uniform for a Husker uniform. She leaves AHS after a four-year career that totals 2,078 points, 1,337 rebounds, 376 steals and 353 blocked shots. Her Alliance legacy? Teamwork! "Don't focus on me; focus on the team," is often a Hooper quote. Yes, this Sheridan County ranch girl will have a huge impact on the NU program, and fans from the Wyoming border to the Missouri River will fall in love with her style of play. Kevin Horn, Alliance, Nebraska
I know I'm not alone when I say that this team inspired me on an unusually deep level. One only has to open the first page of the newspaper to see a chaotic world that seems defined mostly by power and money. Good people are marginalized and lesser people are put on a pedestal. This team was the antithesis of all of that - a beacon of selflessness, teamwork, discipline, effort and courage. They shone brightly!! I'm proud to say they wore "Nebraska" on their jerseys. Thanks for the memories and best of luck to all of them as they make their way in this world. Nate Williams, Omaha, NebraskaI live a few miles outside of Washington D.C., and my family and I tracked the Lady Huskers all season with deep pride. The job Connie Yori did with these ladies and how they played and represented themselves on and off the court was a source of tremendous pride. As an Omaha native and a grad of George Mason University in Fairfax Va., I know firsthand the joy that is felt with exceeding expectations and garnering so much attention. We are all proud of what the Huskers did this season and hope it is the launching pad into the future. Thank you for a great season. Kevin Foley, Vienna, Virginia
Congratulations to the Nebraska women's basketball team. I have to admit that until I logged onto the Nebraska website to see how Kelsey was doing, I really have never followed women's basketball. I remember coaching Kelsey on a youth soccer team when she was only 4 or 5 years old. She was always the best athlete on the field, but when she kicked the ball into one of the other team's players and hurt her, Kelsey sat down on the field and cried and didn't want to play anymore. As good of an athlete as Kelsey is, she has always been a better person. I applaud Nebraska athletics and the coaching staff for recruiting such a wonderful group of young ladies. They epitomize what sport and team really mean. Randy Hoffbeck, Barrow, Alaska
When Linds (Lindsey Moore) said she was going to Nebraska, many of us said: "Huh?" Now we wear red on game day and the Husker ladies have a multitude of boosters here in Washington State that all say "you betcha" many times during the broadcasts. Even when the games are televised, I turn down the sound and let Coatney do the play-by-play. Just fun to watch a team and a coach that epitomize the term team. Can't wait until next year. Bryan Price, Seattle, Washington
The Husker women's basketball team truly defined what it means to be a team. They were more than the sum of their parts. They were a joy to watch. They were humble and classy. I had hoped that they would win it all to prove a point to those who did not give them due props for all they've done. There are good programs because they recruit well. There are winning streaks. There are titles. But I'd wager to say that this team is worth more than that. They proved that the true value of sports is the camaraderie and the relationships you build through it. I hope this team succeeded in setting the foundation to put Husker women's basketball on the map. That achievement will last forever. Jason Go, Omaha, Nebraska
If I was a young woman who excelled at basketball and saw the Huskers this year, what better coach or college could I ask for? Not only would I potentially get playing time on the court, but my charachter would shine at this college. With Connie Yori not only having excellent coaching skills, her encouragement for an education and a career after hoop time speaks volumes! Congratulations Husker women! Kristine Soukup, Gretna, Nebraska
I have been following the Husker women's basketball team since Connie Yori started. I knew this team would be good, but never did I imagine a 32-2 record! They should all be very proud of their accomplishments both on and off the court. The players are an outstanding group of young women. You can tell by watching them that they really love each other and truly enjoy playing the game together. I was in Kansas City when they lost to Kentucky, but I have never been more proud to say I was from Nebraska. You just don't see these girls lose their cool. They always respond to a situation with class. You can't say that about a lot of teams these days. I am definitely going to miss this year's class of seniors, but we have an amazing group of girls coming back next year, and I look forward to all that they will do. I believe the tradition started this year is far from over! Lori Pohlmann, Plymouth, Nebraska
Congratulations to Coach Yori and the entire women's basketball team. I am not much of a basketball fan, but I sure did enjoy watching the few games I saw on TV. Personally, I find the women's game much more interesting and fun to watch than the men's games. I think they play a game that is much more what basketball should be like, rather the combination basketball/rugby that, especially, the men's pro teams play. Here's wishing continued success to Coach Yori and the women's team. I may even try to come to Lincoln for a game next season. Louis Stout, Omaha, Nebraska
I think there will be many lasting impressions left by this marvelous team on Husker Nation. For every young lady out there across Nebraska ages 8 to 18, there could not be a better set of examples to follow. This group of young women sent the message that it is okay to dream and dream BIG because dreams can and DO come true!! Every game I was able to watch on TV, I saw the same thing. I saw a basketball team that demonstrated family, loyalty, love, dedication, determination and most of all, TEAM!! Thank you, Kelsey, Cory, Lindsey, Nique, Vonnie, Kala, Nikki, Nicole, Layne, Cat, Jessica, Nikki, Kaitlyn and Meghin for taking us all along on a most magnificent adventure. We will NEVER forget each and every one of you. You epitomize what Nebraska is about!! Rosalie Suggs, Noblesville, Indiana
Thank you, Lady Huskers for the fantastic ride. What you have accomplished this year went beyond our wildest expectations, and you are to be admired for it. The love you share for each other and the sport seeped into the hearts of your fans as well. Thank you, seniors, for laying the groundwork for better things to come. I didn't follow women's basketball until this year, but I know I'll be there next year as you start your 2010-11 season. You betcha! Sue Brandt, Omaha, Nebraska
This great team has been dreaming all along this season and gave us joy. We can only congratulate the girls, coaches and everyone involved in the team for their hard and diligent work. The team has continued to rise in power. Thank you to all for helping us live this wonderful adventure with you. We are very, very proud of you, and also proud to be your fans. GO BIG RED. Helene and David Periago, Toulon, France
I was never a Husker fan until my niece was recruited for this season, but by halftime of the first exhibition game, I was hooked for life. Never have I seen a team so "together" before they would even step on the court and sort of meld into one another. The Lady Huskers are one of the hardest working, selfless teams I have ever seen, and that comes through in interview after interview. They all say the same thing - it's always we, not I, who worked to win that game. After winning the regular season, I would say, win or lose from here on out, I would never be so proud of anything as how proud I was of those girls. They showed the nation that to be winners you do not need to play dirty ball. Am I a fan of Husker basketball? "You betcha!" D.Nekeferoff
As a season ticketholder since Angela Beck's last season, I have seen a lot of the Lady Huskers. When Connie Yori took over the program from Paul Sanderford, I knew that the team would eventually reach this point! That said, I want to tell the team, Coach Yori, and the assistants, that this longtime fan could not be more proud of you all!! The quality, integrity and loyalty shown in building this program is something that all can be proud of. Your hard work, mental toughness, and respect and love for your teammates could be felt and seen when you were on the court!! A word to the bench players that practiced hard this year and contributed to the team's success , your own court time will come, and you surely were a large part of this year's team!! John C. Thomason, Creighton, Nebraska
If the question is "Will we continue to follow the Husker women after this season?" the answer is "Yes, we will be back next year." This team and what it accomplished so reminds me of when Bob Devaney beat USC and then beat LSU in football. The point is, Bob Devaney beat somebody, and it proved we belong. The Husker women beat somebody for 30 games - two games a week in a tough conference. They belong! Kathryn Dobrinic, Hillsboro, Illinois
Did the Lady Huskers capture my attention this year? Absolutely! I have watched them numerous times on TV, and I filled out my first-ever bracket for the women's tournament. I had the Huskers going all the way because I believed in them. I will always remember this team! Lady Huskers, you were all FANTASTIC!! Matthew Schmidt, Gering, NebraskaWe are so proud of this great team. I spent a great 5½ years of my life in Lincoln. Unfortunately, I don't live there anymore, but wherever I go, I'm a proud Cornhusker. I believed in this team from the beginning. I have their poster hanging in my office here in Philadelphia, and it has been there since they were 10-0. Thank you, Coach Yori. I'm sure we will see you and your team in the Final Four in the near future. Tareq Jaber, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
My most memorable moment was when my daughter, Hannah, told me it would be cool to meet the entire Husker Women's Basketball team and to have a shoot-around with them. The Kerns' family wants to wish the six seniors a very successful life off the court. This team will never be forgotten by Husker Nation. Steve Kerns, Hebron, Nebraska
The Husker women made a lasting impression not only on the entire state of Nebraska, but also on the entire nation. I felt connected to them in a way, and I feel blessed to have experienced the passion and commitment that these girls showed on the court. They showed the state of Nebraska that they can have a winning program if you believe and really want to win. They didn't care about winning. It was about the bond that they shared with one another and the constant belief in one another that kept their season going. These girls were so inspiring, and their story will live on in the Nebraska women's basketball program for decades to come. Congratulations on an amazing season. I will be excited to see what happens next year! Danielle Smith, Kearney, Nebraska
This women's basketball season is obviously an historic one and makes you wonder what other Husker sports had a breakthrough year prior to winning a national championship. That sure would be interesting to know about the football, gymnastics, volleyball, and bowling teams. I'm convinced that if this year's club had not experienced these playoffs, it would have missed knowing what it takes to go all the way. Roy L. Miller, Lakewood, Colorado
I will always remember this team for their hard-working efforts toward every challenge that they encountered this season. I loved the smiles on their faces because they showed how much they loved playing with each other and for each other. I will always remember how they got an entire state behind them. I will always remember them for the groundwork that they established toward the future of this program. Of course, I will always remember all the records they set along the way. More than anything, I am now a dedicated fan of the program. Watching basketball will get me through the dull winter months between football/volleyball and the baseball seasons. Congrats to everyone involved in the program! Kathleen Kniss, Scottsbluff, Nebraska
This was an unbelievable season and a start of putting women's basketball on the map at Nebraska. It was a very tough Big 12 with Baylor and other up-and-coming teams. But with good recruiting by Yori and staff, this season should draw more attention to the coaching and what they can do in future years, thanks to six great seniors who opened the doors for those who are going to find out that there is no place in the world like Nebraska. Bob Feldman
I am proud of the Nebraska women's basketball team and coaching staff. It was a great year. They made us all proud! Darlene March, Barneston, Nebraska
Connie Yori has accomplished what few coaches will ever achieve - going undefeated in conference play. Also, to coach a team to 32 wins (17 more than the year before) is an incredible feat. Her effort, her coaches, and her players hit the utopia of success! Wow, what an unbelievably successful women's basketball season. Mark Schild, Tucson, Arizona