Women’s basketball reflects on championship season

“It was definitely by far one of the best feelings to feel as an athlete and all I could think about was WE DID IT!” -senior Oumoul Thiam (Photo from snuathletics.com)

By Kendra Nixon, Content editor

If you haven’t heard about the National Champions walking around SNU, you’ve either been living under a rock or studying too hard.

Either way, the news of women’s basketball team winning nationals was the most exciting thing in SNU sports in a long time. The women weren’t even supposed to end up at the National tournament after losing their regional championship game against Oklahoma Christian. But the Crimson Storm got the at-large bid to enter the tournament shortly after.

“After the game for me was total shock,” said Marsha Durr, senior. “I tried to hold in my tears as much as possible because I don’t like crying in public. But then I thought, ‘You just won a national championship, it looks weird if you’re NOT crying.’ So then I just let them loose.”

Although it may have come as a shock to some that they won the National Tournament their first year playing against Division II teams, the team and the coach were not. They had started off the season with high hopes and one goal: to win the championship. On top of their incredibly successful turnout, head coach Derek Dorris was named NCCAA Coach of the Year and Oumoul Thiam was named All-Great American Conference first team.

“It was definitely by far one of the best feelings to feel as an athlete and all I could think about was WE DID IT!” Thiam said. “I felt accomplished, I felt like all that hard work that each one of us had put in individually throughout the years had led to something and that it had finally paid off. Plus doing it as team was probably the most rewarding thing!”

The Storm ended up with a 21-10 record, as well as several honors. Aminata Fall was named NCCAA Tournament MVP, Annie Kassango was named to the NCCAA All-Tournament team, and Katie Beebe, Kristin Milster and Durr all  earned NCCAA Scholar-Athlete honors.

“I think the key to our success was we had a team of girls who were tired of losing,” Durr said. “The majority of our girls were here previous years, and we would make it to nationals and then lose the first round. We were fed up with that. We wanted to win despite all the obstacles around us. So, we went out and performed. I am very proud of how we rallied together to win.”

Despite their success in the end, it didn’t look very hopeful at the beginning. The Storm started off 4-7 and needed a quick turnaround before it all went downhill.

“At the beginning of the season I really didn’t expected to win a National championship,” Kassango said. “I was just ready to work hard and trying to go as far as possible we could go and see what happen. I also didn’t expected to win a national championship because we had a new coach, Derek Dorris, and generally when you have a new coach, the team needs to adjust to the change.”

After their losing record of 4-7, they only lost three games.

“Honestly after we played our first three games, I thought if there is not any change about how we play, we will not go far,” Fall said. “With the transition from NAIA to the GAC where we meet new teams and all that. We come along with a good record finally, after hard work and the willingness to get better every day.”

The Crimson Storm competed against California Baptist University for the title, and it wasn’t an easy win either. SNU came out on top with a 74-72 win. California Baptist was on a 15-game wining streak before the Storm broke it. Their final record was an impressive 25-6 record, but that wasn’t enough to stop SNU from taking the title from them.

“I knew it was going to be a battle, California Baptist was a solid team, but I knew my team was ready. I had had a feeling that we were going to win it all, and now was the time for us to take it,” said Milster, junior. “At first, I couldn’t believe it was over, and then, a rush of relief and excitement hit me. We really had won it all!”

The only thing they have to look to now is another successful season next year and another Championship banner to add to the eight National Championships in the history of SNU women’s basketball.

“After winning the championship game I had a feeling that I can’t describe very well,” Kassango said. “A lot of people at the beginning of the season didn’t believe in our team and doubted us. People didn’t think that we would’ve been able to go until the end of the road, and I’m extremely proud of my team, because it is really a team effort accomplishment. I’m also happy because we proved wrong  all the people who doubted us that we did it.”