All was quiet. Heads were low. Hearts were beating. Players were nervous and scared. You’d be able to hear a pin drop if it wasn’t for the blaring noise of the speakers.
Then, it flashed on the screen.
And there was eruption, celebration, tears, hugging and overzealous joy throughout the Draught Horse on Temple University’s campus.
The women’s basketball team was headed to the NCAA Tournament.
The Owls received the No. 11 seed in the Oklahoma City region and will take on No. 6 Arizona State Sunday night in College Park, Md. If they win, the Owls will meet the winner of the No. 3 Duke and No. 14 Murray State contest.
While this was the fifth consecutive year that coach Dawn Staley has guided her team to the Big Dance, this was the first time that the Owls were sitting squarely on the bubble. So having to sit there and wait, as two full regions were announced before Temple’s name was called, was undoubtedly difficult on Staley and her players.
“It’s hard, it’s hard sitting there,” Staley said. “It’s hard watching some other teams get in, watching some bubble teams get in and it eats at you. But when you see your name pop up on the screen, there’s nothing more, besides winning, that’s more exhilarating.”
Senior guard Ashley Morris was perhaps the most animated, leaning forward on her chair and nervously waiting for the announcement. When it finally came, she embraced senior center Lady Comfort as tears were streaming down her face.
“I was so anxious,” Morris said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was nervous, excited, everything.”
Once she settled down and got everything out of her system, Morris was upfront about what she wanted to get out of her last NCAA Tournament appearance.
“In the [A-10] Championship, I failed my team,” she said.
“We were kind of on the bubble, didn’t know whether we would get in or not. And I just want to prove to them one more game that I can still lead them.”
Meanwhile, freshman guard Lindsay Kimmel had more a blunt reaction when the Owls finally had their number called.
“Thank God, it’s about time,” she said. “All I could think was it was about time. I hate waiting, we were so anxious. I could see everyone biting their nails in the front row.”
In the midst of the celebration, with everyone smiling and enjoying themselves, Staley elaborated on her team making the Tournament and the hard work they put into getting there.
“It was a total team effort, they bought into the system. They became a cohesive unit, and we got rewarded with an at-large bid,” she said. “Our kids are very, very happy, so we’re going to try to bottle this energy up and use it against Arizona State.”
And as is customary in NCAA Tournament match-ups, the teams are set to play another team that they simply don’t know.
But, that’s why they have five days to prepare.
“I don’t know anything [about Arizona State],” Staley said. “[But] by tomorrow night, we’ll have them.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.