Several pizza boxes and bottled water were strewn across a table in room BO2D in the rear of the men’s basketball office, where the women’s tennis team gathered to watch the 2003 women’s tennis National Championship Selection Show, shown on ESPNEWS.
The team of seven, its coach Tracy Tooke, an associate athletics director and
several members of the sports media relations staff sat or stood in anticipation of who the Owls would face in the first round and where they would be playing.
After four brackets were announced several members of the team started guessing where they would play – some said Texas, others Minnesota and California and Hawaii, the obvious wish – in Temple’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1995.
When the fifth bracket was shown, players inched toward the screen to see Temple pitted against No. 14 seeded William & Mary in the first round of action.
If Temple wins, it will face the winner of the Marshall/Southern Alabama match. Local team Pennsylvania was also in the Owls’ bracket.
William & Mary is also ranked No. 10 in the nation.
“I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know who we were going to be paired with,” junior Danira Penic said.
“We actually have a very good draw.”
“That’s a good draw,” Tooke told her team after the chatter died down in the room.
Another player then blurted out, “so I take it we’re driving,” referring to Williamsburg, Va., the site where the match will be held between May 9-11.
Next door to the Selection Show party was men’s basketball coach John Chaney, assistant Dan Leibovitz and women’s basketball assistant coach Ervin Monier.
When the team was ready to leave, some stopped by next door to thank Chaney for letting them borrow the room.
“Thanks for letting us use the room,” several players said in unison.
“Take some peanuts,” Chaney hollered back after the team had offered him some slices of pepperoni pizza.
Chaney knows a thing or two about NCAA Tournaments, having been to the Big Dance 17 times.
Tooke and her team – which consists of four freshman, two juniors and a senior – are all making their first appearance at the National Championships, where 63 teams will be looking to take down defending champion Stanford.
Temple will travel to Williamsburg next Thursday with six healthy players and the injured Lara Ercegovic, one of the teams top singles players who had a season-ending knee injury midway through the season.
The team has had injury after injury throughout he season.
“It was one thing after another,” freshman Laura Seiverling said.
“It was really hard when she got injured,” freshman Mia Marovic said.
“But we gave the best of ourselves.”
The matches are run by a seven-point system in which the first team to four points wins.
One point is awarded to the team which wins 2-of-3 doubles matches and one point for each win out of the six singles matches.
All six Owls will compete in both the doubles and singles matches and Tooke said that the key is to get the doubles’ point.
Penic and freshman Ana Maslesa are the Owls’ first doubles.
“My top three match up with their top three,” said Tooke of the singles matchups against William & Mary.
Temple didn’t face William & Mary this season but competed in a tournament it hosted earlier in the season.
“We know the team, we know we have very good chances,” Penic said.
“It’s like we’re going as underdogs, it’s a pretty good feeling and we’re going to show them who we are.”
“Our confidence,” Tooke said, “is probably our strongest weapon.”
Chris Silva can be reached at CBSrican@aol.com.