Women's Basketball embraces its past on eve of 2010 NCAA Championship
March 20, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas -- On the eve of their 2010 NCAA Women's Basketball First Round game against the Aztecs of San Diego State, Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors and the Longhorns don't have to go far for inspiration on playing in the NCAA Championship. With a program as storied as Texas', which has reached the national postseason tournament 24 times - tied for fourth most in NCAA history - the Horns know they just have to look back on what has been done before them by those wearing burnt orange. Goestenkors, who is in her third year in Austin, takes advantage of those who have paved the way by making sure each of her 10 players thoroughly embraces the program.
"We talk about the tradition of the program before every game," Goestenkors said. "Cathy McDonald, our Director of Operations and a former player here, had many alums write letters to our team this year. Before every game we have a student-athlete read a letter aloud from Texas Ex detailing what being a Longhorn meant to them and the traditions. We're all part of this big family, sisters in a way."
Whether it's sitting at the pregame meal in a hotel on the road, or back in Cooley Pavilion before taking to the Erwin Center Court, a different player stands before her teammates and reads one of the many letters McDonald received prior to the start of the season.
"I never want my players to forget how they got to this point and who paved the way for them and the tremendous tradition that they are responsible to uphold," Goestenkors added.
With 24 tournament appearances, three Final Fours, eight Elite Eights and 11 Sweet 16s since 1983, Texas is not shy of tradition and success. Although the main message of the majority of letters was about taking pride in the Texas tradition, each one also shares a different view on the program and what that particular player had to go through at that time to be successful.
"Most of them mention their memories, and the memories usually had to do with their teammates and their coaches, and the memories they made together," Goestenkors said. "Some of them were the big wins that they had, and some talked about going undefeated to win the 1986 National Championship. Foremost, their memories had to do with people, not things."
And on the night before the final NCAA Championship begins for seniors Erika Arriaran, Brittainey Raven and Earnesia Williams, Goestenkors expects her players to embrace their Texas history more than ever.
"I feel like we can really make a run. We've faced some of the toughest teams in the nation by playing in the Big 12 Conference, and that has us ready to compete on the court," Raven said. "But we're playing for more than just ourselves and this team. The Texas tradition is based on one of the most successful and storied programs in all of Women's Basketball, and from the moment we tip off tomorrow, we'll be playing for all of our sisters, too."
These are excerpts from a few of the "Letters to our Sisters" which were written by Texas Exes:
Pride. Burnt orange. Honor. Frank Erwin Center. Privilege. Teammates. Family. Heart.
These things come to mind first and have not, nor will they ever leave. I have been fortunate to have played at every level, but nothing compares to being a part of The University of Texas. To be a part of something greater than yourself is monumental. The tradition now lies in your hands.
-Jamie Carey, 2002-05
Retha Swindell (all-time leading rebounder in Texas history) complimented me one time after a game and told me to go for the rebounding record, that she wanted me to do it. It's that kind of support, knowing that it is never me at The University of Texas, it is always us, it is about each generation helping the next.
-Stacy Stephens, 2000-04
Remember: if you persist through the unthinkable, grow through the uncomfortable, rise above the unfathomable, smile through the unbearable, you can achieve the seemingly impossible. People do it every day. And so can you.
-Fran Harris, 1982-86