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ISSUE 117 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/27/2004

Oles capture hearts of fans

By Julie Gunderson
Sports Editor

Friday, February 27, 2004

Hollywood couldnt have scripted a better ending to the womens basketball season, had it tried. Tied ballgame: 45 seconds remaining, in the final home game of four seniors careers. Up against a clock and their opponents will, with the game hanging in the balance, and a senior stepping to the line. Never mind that entering the game, her team was 1-19. Swoosh. Or the fact that she and her fellow seniors had never before beaten the perennial powerhouse St. Thomas. Swoosh again. Jill Johnson did what any senior captain is supposed to do. She made her free throws.

"We knew that we had nothing to lose," Sarah McBroom 05 said. "Sometimes thats a freeing thing."

The drama, however, was not yet over. With the seconds ticking away, the Oles up by two, St. Thomas guard Vel Williams stood with the ball in her hands and destiny on her side. Enter the gutsy freshman: the one that came up with the big steal. The one that took the foul and went to the line with a chance to put the game on ice. Never mind that her nerves were supposed to get to her. Swoosh. Or the fact that her inexperience meant she should have been playing the role of the goat, not the hero. Swoosh again. Holly Grimsrud did what most freshmen usually dont. She made her free throws and gave the Oles a 72-70 victory over St. Thomas. Perhaps it was symbolic; one of the youngest members of the Ole squad, showing everyone just how far they had come.

This is the stuff of Hoosiers. This is a team full of real-life Rudys. Thats probably why the 200-plus fans that filtered out of Skoglund auditorium last week felt more like they were leaving a Disney flick, rather than a basketball game.

This team will do that to you; theyll make you into a feel-good spectator.

"We never gave up," Kristy Larson 05 said. Larson, who was forced to sit out the season after being sidelined with a knee injury, was undoubtedly needed by her teammates out on the court this season. But although the record book will show a disappointing 2-20 record , Larson is anything but disappointed in her team.

"Most teams would have given up and never have been able to pull off that win [vs. St. Thomas]," Larson said. "This one kept fighting."

They had been battling all season, they thought, why give up the fightnow?

It would have been an easy thing to do, especially as the wheels continued to fall off: after their starting point guard went down with a torn ACL, after the losses started to pile up, after the heartbreaking defeats began coming one after another. The Oles ended up dropping seven games by six points or less.

All of this would have been enough to tear most teams apart.

"There are teams that will bicker at each other and create a really negative atmosphere," Grimsrud said. "We all respect each other, on and off the court, and that is not a common theme on many athletic teams. I feel privileged to be a part of this group."

Its been said that you learn more from losing then you do from winning. In that respect, the Oles admit that they have learned a lot through the course of a challenging season.

"We may not have won many games, but we were put in situations where we could learn," Grimsrud said. "Dont get me wrong, though; I hate to lose."

In the end, the Oles did lose their final game at Hamline last Saturday, 79-63 . It wasnt quite the fairytale ending everyone expected. But then again, it depends on whose script you were reading.

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