Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Understanding what it means to be a Lady Monarch
ODU lost to a MEAC team for the first time in its history. Maryland Eastern Shore is no Hampton. Picked to finish eighth in the 13-team MEAC, they rank last in that conference in scoring offense and field-goal percentage.
"This win is far bigger than we could ever imagine," said coach Fred Batchelor.
And for ODU this is a loss hard to imagine. This one does not belong alongside Stanford or Georgia Tech or Seton Hall, for that matter. This one stands alone. There are no travel days to blame. There are no exams. This isn't about youth. ODU was coming off a comfortable win over North Carolina A&T on Sunday. There is no reason for these Lady Monarchs to fall to Maryland Eastern Shore.
Karen Barefoot has contagious enthusiasm and an ability to find a positive in any negative. There is no silver lining here. The wisest person I know about women's basketball told me once that with this game, the game before the players break for the holidays, you never know what you're going to get. Kids are anxious to go home. They're already tasting Mom's home cooking. It's the first real break the players have had since preseason. A few hours after the final whistle, the Lady Monarchs were airport bound or catching rides home. Know what? The Hawks were doing the same, only they were going into Christmas with a win to feel good about.
Moons ago the Lady Monarchs lost to James Madison on a February night in Harrisonburg. These were great Lady Monarchs, too -- Ticha, Clarisse and company. Wendy Larry saw the team was upset but frankly, not upset enough. She had a conversation with that team she would never need to repeat. It was about Lady Monarch pride. It was about what wearing a jersey that said "Old Dominion" on its front meant. It was about giving your all every day, every night. Those players went on to become part of ODU's 113-game CAA win streak.
Now times have changed. The CAA is worlds better thanks to the standard ODU set. But not everything has changed. When you wear that blue and silver uniform, it's still not about you. It's about a tradition that goes back to the '70s ; it's about Anne Donovan and Nancy Lieberman; it's about Ticha and Mery and Clar; it's about Lucienne and Tanty and Natalie. It's about Shareese Grant and a 35-point effort in the CAA championship. It's about Megan and Shahida and TJ -- the last team to win an NCAA Tournament game.
Your load is heavy as a Lady Monarch because you're never playing for you. You're part of a tradition, a revered tradition that frankly is getting lost with losses to Loyola in front of 400 and certainly with a beating from a seven-loss Maryland Eastern Shore team.
When you're a Lady Monarch, you don't take heart in competing with a team picked last in the ACC, especially when that team is on your floor. You don't get blown out by a league opponent. And maybe you lose to Maryland, but you don't lose to Maryland Eastern Shore.
It comes back to accountability. Nobody is expecting a team full of freshman with an entirely new coaching staff to make a national impact. But on this day, playing in your gym, in front of a bunch of schoolkids cheering for you, against a team that had only recorded wins over American and Delaware State -- on this day, the Lady Monarchs are expected to win.
Why? Because you're Old Dominion. If you check out the box score from today's game, you won't find much remarkable. Nobody got hurt; the opponent didn't shoot the lights out; there wasn't an officiating issue.
But frankly, something remarkable did happen today. Let's hope the players with "Lady Monarchs" on their jerseys realize that.