By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - During a four year span, from 1989-92, Dana Eikenberg attended Penn State University, helped lead the Lady Lions to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and was an integral part in obtaining the program's first-ever No. 1 ranking in 1991.
However, when she returns to Happy Valley this Sunday, she will be coaching from the bench opposite that of the blue and white clad Lady Lions.
The reason being, Eikenberg is in her second season as an assistant coach for Jody Adams and the Wichita State Shockers.
"Every time I've been back [to Penn State] it's been awesome," said Eikenberg. "To come back with Wichita State and in the NCAA Tournament is something as a player and a coach you work hard for. It makes it extra special to come back to a place that I called home."
Parallel to the current Penn State senior class, Eikenberg was a member of a special group of seniors during her time as a Lady Lion. Eikenberg played alongside Susan Robinson, Kathy Drysdale (formerly Phillips) and Lynn Dougherty.
"You just sensed that there was that camaraderie between the senior class that just pulled them together," said Kathy Cafazzo, former Lady Lions sports information director and current Florida Gators media relations contact.
A true point guard, Eikenberg finished her career tied for sixth on Penn State's career assists chart with 567 dimes.
"I loved my time here at Penn State," said Eikenberg. "I had some of the most diverse, talented women around me. I know it is part of who I am today because of my teammates."
The distance it takes to travel from Wichita, Kan. to University Park is 1,173 miles, making it difficult to connect with her former teammates and coaches in person.
With that being said, once Phillips found out that Wichita State was going to be traveling to Happy Valley to take on Penn State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Phillips immediately texted Eikenberg to make sure that they met up, to catch up.
For Drysdale, the current Marketing Director of the Lady Lions, Eikenberg is more than just a teammate. The two roomed together all four years while at Penn State.
"It's not so much 'how was it being roommates,'" said Drysdale. "It was how did a point guard and a center live together and survive?"
Over the course of the four years as members of the women's basketball team, Eikenberg and Drysdale weaved multiple baskets full of memories. So much so that it was hard to pick out one memory that stuck out from the rest.
"We were freshmen together, and we were seniors together," said Phillips. "It's hard just to point out one memory when there were so many that were great opportunities for us to grow, develop and become really close friends."
For Eikenberg, her taller roommate was a big reason why her college experience was so unforgettable.
"I probably wouldn't have been able to survive it without her [Drysdale]," said Eikenberg. "Together we probably helped each other through a lot of things. And, being a point guard-post tandem was a pretty good deal."
Reminiscing aside, Eikenberg and the Shockers have only been in State College for a couple of days, but already she has treated her coaches and players to the rich Penn State tradition.
"We went to the Creamery and ate at The Tavern last night," said Adams
Tradition is something that Eikenberg has managed to carry with her as she transitioned from a player at Penn State to a coach.
"Personally as a coach, I have a little bit of background of my coaching staff at Penn State," said Eikenberg. "Annie Troyan, Rene Portland and Dan Durkin; I model all of the details, emphasis and passion that they put in the game. I have a little bit of Penn State in my own personal coaching style."
Returning home to play in a game as meaningful as the matchup today can add a little more flavor to the game. Just ask Penn State head coach Coquese Washington.
"Anytime you can go back and play at home, whether you're a player or a coach, it feels good," said Washington. "I'm sure their [Wichita State's] players and staff have a little added incentive to play well and to represent well coming back to Penn State and bringing Dana back home. It adds a little spice to this first round and second round site."
Although Eikenberg will be coaching for a Shockers victory: once a Lady Lion, forever a Lady Lion.
Welcome home, Dana.