While I was in college, someone once asked me, “Why do you play basketball?” Without thinking much about it, I said, “Because I love it.” He shook his head as if I answered the wrong question, and said, “But why do you love it?” I had never really thought about this before. I had been playing since about the time I could walk and I never stopped. As time passed, it simply became a part of me. It went from middle school travel teams to AAU to high school basketball to college, without me thinking about what made me continue playing.
This man was asking me what felt like an impossible question, but I answered the best way I could. I said, “Because of the feeling. The feeling when that final buzzer rings and you realize you just won the big game, whether it was a game you shouldn’t win or against a rival or for a championship, or all three combined. It’s that moment of pure elation when you run into your teammates so exhausted because of how hard you just played and all you can do is scream. Your team jumps and smiles together in celebration of the hard work and dedication you have put in up until that point. There is no better feeling.”
My time at Penn has been that feeling time and time again, especially this past season. We went through a whirlwind of “final buzzer” moments. On Friday, March 3rd we celebrated in Hanover, N.H., after clinching a share of the Ivy League title. The next night, we became the first team in program history to win back-to-back Ivy championships after beating Harvard. By the next Tuesday, we finished the regular season with a record of 13-1 by taking down rival Princeton. Just a few days later, we played in the inaugural Ivy Tournament and went on to beat Brown and Princeton for the championship. Each time the horn sounded, we celebrated knowing the difficulty of each win and the adversity we had to overcome in the beginning of the season.
We started out the season trying to find our identity. While we had many of the same players, it was not the same team. We battled through some tough losses, but only to come out stronger. We were able to do that by focusing on one possession at a time. We took that mentality through to the end of the season. Unfortunately, our season ended when our last “final buzzer” went off against Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament. Even though that loss was extremely difficult, it did not define the season we had. Our season was defined by the journey that started in August and continued through March. It was the hard work that each and every person in our Penn women’s basketball family contributed every single day towards our success. We fought our way through adversity to finish with regular season and tournament championships.
Nevertheless, for Sydney, Jackie and I, the NCAA game marked the end of our playing careers. While I cannot speak for them, I’ll say for myself that that “final buzzer” was the hardest one I have ever experienced. Growing up, I never saw the end. There was always another goal when it came to basketball. There was always another game to play. Until now. Now, we hang up our sneakers to become supportive fans and dedicated alumni to a great basketball program. I already miss playing, but I’ll always be connected to Penn women’s basketball through the relationships I forged over the course of my time here.
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