While students were on spring break during the past week,
the Lady Raiders were not among the group taking part in a break from the daily
grind spending their break getting ready for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“While everybody was at the beach celebrating, we were here
practicing everyday,” senior Monique Smalls said. “Our coaches wanted to bring
up our competitiveness and just got to make basketball fun. Trying to make it
fun so we started doing five-on-five, we did a lot of competitions. We even had
Lady Raider Olympics where we got to battle against each other.”
On Monday, with all the students back in school, the Lady
Raiders gathered to figure out how their journey in the NCAA Tournament would
Not really where they would be playing, that question
already answered with Lubbock hosting first and second round games in this
years tourney, but rather whom they would be facing.
The Lady Raiders waited anxiously until they came onto the
bracket as a No.7 seed.
“Really special,” senior Casey Morris said about seeing
their name come on the screen. “I think, like I said, the seniors and just the
team that we have we’re so dedicated to basketball and we love it and it shows
on the court everyday.
“So it’s just good to see our name and show we’ve earned
It was only moments later that Tech found out whom they
would be playing and it ended up being No. 10 seed South Florida.
“I was ready for anybody,” Smalls said. “I don’t know much
about South Florida, I know in the next couple of days our coaches will have
something prepared for us. I’m looking forward to playing somebody new that we
haven’t played before.”
Tech and South Florida will be meeting for only the third
time in program history with the last meeting between the two squads coming in
2008 at the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Along with South Florida, No. 15 seed Fresno State and No. 2
seed California will be making the trip to Lubbock for the first and second
California and Fresno State will play in the first game on
Saturday inside the United Spirit Arena with first tip set for 3 p.m., while
Tech and USF will meet at 5:30 p.m.
The winners of both games will have practice on Sunday
before returning to the court on Monday to play at 8:30 p.m. for a shot at a
Sweet 16 berth in Spokane, Washington the next week.
The Lady Raiders are in the programs 20th NCAA
Tournament and for this group of seniors it is the second time to make it to
the big dance in their time here - Tech making it into the tournament in 2011
before being knocked out by St. John’s in the first round.
In 2012, the Lady Raiders missed the NCAA Tournament but had
returning to the big dance as one of the goals for this season and have
accomplished that which is what Tech head coach Kristy Curry said is the goal of
everyone that coaches or plays the game is to make it into the tourney.
“It’s special,” she said. “This is number 20 for the program
in the year of the 20-year anniversary of the National Championship team, so
there’s a tremendous amount of pride that goes into it. I think its number nine
for me (as a head coach) and quite a few more if you add those assistant years
in there. So it’s something that you wake up and want to be about every day and
we’re just proud to have this program back.
“I’m happy for our seniors, our entire team, our staff,