From Left: Katie Lou Samuelson ’19 (CLAS), Napheesa Collier ’19 (CLAS), Gabby Williams ’18 (CLAS), Kia Nurse ’18 (CLAS), and Saniya Chong ’17 (CLAS) cheer on teammates (not pictured) Molly Bent ’20 (ACES), Natalie Butler, Crystal Dangerfield ’20 (ACES), Kyla Irwin ’20 (CLAS), and Tierney Lawlor ’17 (CAHNR) during their Elite Eight defeat of Oregon.
Confession: I enjoy watching many sports and playing far fewer, but I must admit to some unattractive internal smirking whenever members of my cheering section start high-fiving and chest-bumping and yelling, “We did it!” Maybe it’s the literal nature of an editor, but I can’t help but think, “What’s with the we? You didn’t make that tackle or drain that three or block that puck.”
Yet I fell totally and madly into the spell of we with this year’s women’s hoops team.
I watched every second of play in previous years and cheered wholeheartedly for the teams. But this particular group stole my heart in a more thorough fashion.
Saniya’s quiet ferocity and seeming reticent delight at finally being a deserving center of attention. Gabby’s pogo sticking, yes, but also her pleasure in the vinyl records experience. Katie Lou’s contagious joy and the toughness behind the giggles (what’s her puke-bucket-to-triples-bucket ratio?). Butler on the glass, the wisdom of Kia Nurse, the tenacity of Dangerfield, the sheer beauty of Pheesa’s offense and Geno’s purported shock and awe at her accomplished defense. I thrilled with the crowd at every off-bench minute from Lawlor, Bent, and Irwin.
Still, I could have weathered all that individual wonder and not succumbed to the we. It was this team’s togetherness that got me. I felt inexplicably honored to be tied however peripherally to this soulful group’s generosity toward, and obvious joy in, one another.
They wouldn’t buy into the “rebuilding year” noise they heard early on and insisted on winning, time and time again. Until they didn’t — and the problem with falling for the we meant feeling a tiny modicum of their pain. Peripheral pride kicked in again watching them be as united and gracious following that defeat — one that should define them far less than their previous 36 wins. Congrats, women, on getting the program to that record-breaking 111.
I can’t wait till we start playing next year! I mean, until they start playing.