Irish stay calm, have fun in winning
By MATT LOZAR
In Saturday's Big East Tournament semifinal similar to the regular season match-up between the teams, the Irish dropped game one to Connecticut and gave the underdog Huskies a chance to pull the upset.
But the Irish were smiling.
"We knew after game one that we were better than them in all aspects of the game," Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player Emily Loomis said.
Loomis led the Irish in kills and smiles this weekend.
Every time she recorded one of her 35 kills, she turned to her teammates, threw her hand in the air and smiled.
But Loomis was also smiling when the Irish couldn't make the block, committed a service error or when Irish coach Debbie Brown replaced her with defensive specialist Keara Coughlin in the back row.
This smile comes from the attitude the Irish have built since day one.
"The captains set the tone for us when we came in," Big East Rookie of the Year Lauren Kelbley said. "We are out there having fun."
Even when Kelbley makes one of her rare mistakes, she doesn't get mad. Instead she walks back to the team huddle with a smile. Brown doesn't yell at her players and get mad at them for making a mistake. She challenges them. In game three on Sunday, the Hurricanes built a five-point lead and looked to be running away with the game and grabbing the momentum.
But Brown got off the bench and asked her team, "Are we gonna get this kill?"
While the Irish lost the game, they got that kill and stayed confident and happy.
"The team is out there having fun and the captains have been a big part of that," Brown said.
Maybe the smiles come from setter and captain Kristen Kinder who had to be told to settle down on the court by Brown numerous times because she was getting too excited. Maybe this confidence comes from the team seeing Brown questioning the officials on a debatable call and not jumping off the bench and earning a yellow card as two Miami coaches did Sunday.
Maybe the smiles came from the fact the Irish saw Connecticut players with the deer-in-the-headlights look as the Irish won the last three games Saturday by 13, eight and 12 points. And when they accepted their Big East Tournament Champion T-shirts and plaques for the third straight year, the smiles got even bigger.
"I'm just having some much fun out there," Loomis said.
The Irish hope to continue having fun and get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. And if not, there's a good chance Loomis will still be smiling.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Matt Lozar at email@example.com.
All Sports Stories for Monday, November 25, 2002