After forty minutes of basketball, the game, the season, and three excellent Ole careers had come to an end. Four years of hard work, dedication and loyalty are nothing more then a memory now. Seniors Liz Mundahl, Sara Erickson, and Mayme Cupkie embraced at center court following a 67-58 victory over Hamline to close out their final campaign. Before the game, the seniors hooked pinkies and yelled 1-2-3 SEN[IOR]S! for the final time; now they try to fight back the tears for one last Um Ya Ya, the finality of the situation finally fully hitting them. Even though they were unable to make the playoffs on their farewell tour, these are tears of joy. In their own way, they are champions.
This victory was the culmination of a three wins in four games run that saw the Oles rout Augsburg before battling back to beat Macalester after trailing by 20 points at the half. The Hamline game served as a fitting end to season, and a testament to the winning sprit of these three special seniors.
Its a great way to end our season, said coach Pat Buresh. Not only for our team going into next year, but it is great that we could send the seniors off with a win.
Replacing the departing players, all of whom started for the Oles this season, will not be easy. They were all team players, go-to players, Buresh said. I will miss the leadership, determination and hustle they all brought to every game.
The exiting hoopsters insist that the future is bright for the Oles. I have confidence in the younger players and I know there will be some great leaders on the team next year, Mundahl said. Cupkie added, A lot of great players got playing time and experience this year; they know what they need to do. There is no doubt they have the talent. Erickson said, quite simply, They are going to be good. I fear that I will be replaced pretty easily.
If the last game could be used as a microcosm of the things to come, the future does look bright for the Oles. In the victory over the Pipers, Kelly Sweeney 04 dished out six assists and was the games leading rebounder, pulling down nine boards. Kristy Larson 05 wreaked havoc on both ends of the floor, scoring 12 points while finding time to nab seven boards, make four steals and block two shots.
Buresh doesnt question the talent or tenacity of next years squad, but remains cautiously optimistic. Any time you lose more then three starters, there will be some growing pains the next year, she said. We certainly experienced that this season [the Oles lost four starters last winter] as we got off to a rough start against some very tough opponents.
Buresh added that it would be difficult to replace the 25 points per game scored by the senior trio, which made up a little over 40 percent of the teams overall scoring average.
What they miss most about the game? Aside from the fact that the all the girls will miss the friendships and close bonds forged over the years, their answers are quite different.
It will be the simple things that Mundahl will miss most. I will miss having the opportunity to compete every day, whether in practice or a game. Erickson said she will miss game experience as a whole. I will miss the passion, sweat and tears that go along with it, she said. And Cupkie, she will miss olfactory stimulation the game provides. I will remember the smell. The smell of the gym, the ball, my shoes. I can remember that smell and it all comes back to me.