Lady Lions to Battle UTEP in the Bayou
March 13, 2012
By Laura Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
"We have to go into every game now with the mindset that it's going to be a battle," said junior guard Alex Bentley. "It's going to be a fight to the death and everybody is going to play their hardest so we just have to make sure we keep at it."
Excitement and anticipation of tournament season filled the Founder's Lounge at the Bryce Jordan Center on Monday night as the Lady Lions anxiously awaited the results of selection day. After Penn State was announced as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, the room erupted in cheers.
Coach Washington breathed a sigh relief as the build-up of the bracket announcements had taken a toll on her patience all night. Now, with all of her attention directed on the game ahead, she was already reiterating the importance of focus, regardless of the seeding.
"You have to play a good team if you're going to advance," said Coach Washington. "I think all the teams in the tournament are preparing to play good teams. It doesn't matter if you're a one seed or a four seed, you're going to have to play each other at some time."
The players were in agreement with their coach, but it was something other than the seeding that also caught their attention. Slaps on the back and excited murmurs were spread amongst the team as the ESPN announcers made the comment that Penn State was sure to be a dangerous threat in their Kingston regional bracket.
"It's nice to get props for it," said Bentley. "We know that we're dangerous and we're a confident team. I like our standing. I like our placing. We're ready to go."
After making an NCAA appearance last year, all but one of the Lady Lions can say they have some experience under their belt. For freshman Tori Waldner, the anticipation of her first tournament appearance is exciting.
"It's amazing," said Waldner. "In my freshman year I come into a program that has been developing, and we're doing really well. It's awesome being able to be in the NCAA tournament after watching it as a kid."
The Lady Lions head to the tournament with a 24-6 record this season. After winning the regular season Big Ten title, but falling short to Purdue in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, the team knows success will not come easy.
This may be the biggest lesson learned as each player has taken the recent loss and turned it into a positive.
"There are a lot of lessons to learn from that game," said junior forward Marisa Wolfe. "That is what games are going to be like in the tournament. They're not going to be blowouts and it's not going to be a walk in the park. It's going to be very competitive and that loss gives us more motivation."
With this in mind, the Lady Lions are busy preparing themselves for what awaits them in Baton Rouge. After taking time off last week, the team has returned to Penn State renewed and refocused.
"The week off helped us," said Coach Washington. "They got their anger and frustration from the [Big Ten] tournament out and came back rested and ready to focus on the NCAA tournament."
With a clean slate, the Lady Lions are ready for the challenges ahead, according to Bentley.
"We're definitely going to show the nation who Penn State is."