Monday, February 15, 1999

Is That Molly Hatchet I Hear Playing in the Background?

The Hokie women flirted with disaster on Sunday, finally dispatching of a surprising Rhode Island team that almost pulled off an upset to rival the Temple victory over Tech in football this past year.  Bonnie was pretty hard on the team in the post-game, and so was I.  But we love our Hokie women's team, and I for one am looking forward to this Sunday's game against GW.

Last year, Tech's women sprinted towards the finish line, but this year, it's looking more like a limp than a sprint.  The Hokies are struggling at times with "inferior" teams, and at least one Hokie mainstay - free throw shooting - has recently deserted Bonnie's troops.

Perception is a funny thing.  I think the women had more momentum at this time last year, but then again, we expected less of them.  With the winning comes heightened expectations, not just because of what we think about them and their abilities, but because of what they can do for us, and for Virginia Tech.

Now that our women are 23-1, I find myself wanting it all - a win over GW, an A-10 championship, a Top 4 seed in the NCAA tournament (and hence, some NCAA games at Cassell), and a Sweet 16 appearance.  Gosh, that's not too much to ask for a team that only won about 10 games two years ago, is it?

It may be, but a lot of the expectations come from Bonnie and the players themselves.   They believe in themselves, and they expect themselves to do well, and darn it, when you see Bonnie so cool and calm at the helm, we the fans just expect it.

But it's important that we not lose sight of something:  this is supposed to be fun.  And it is.  I mean, who ever thought that we would be attending sold out women's games at Cassell Coliseum?  And, win or lose, this coach and her players are endearing, as they troop through a dream season with wide-eyed wonder at everything that goes on around them.  They keep mentioning the crowds, and how amazed they are, and they keep talking about how they "cry" at this and that, and it's all so funny and exciting and thrilling all at the same time, and you can't help but get caught up in it.

But remember, it's supposed to be fun.  I worry about them, when I see them battling a sorry 4-18 Rhode Island team, and the Hokies have pinched, nervous, we-can't-lose-this-one looks on their faces.  But you know, now that I think of it, I'll bet that these women hate losing so much that even before they became household names, they probably got those same looks on their faces.  It's just that now, tens of thousands of people are watching who never paid attention before.

So remember that, as you come down the stretch, Hokie fans.  As much as we want them to succeed, it has been one hell of a ride, and we need to enjoy it.  Remember when the men's team was drawing 10,000 a game to Cassell, and you never thought it would end?  Well, it did.  And now the women are doing it, so enjoy it while it's still going on.   This is a one-of-a-kind season.


Meanwhile, Bobby's Slumbering Troops Awaken

The Tech men won their fourth game out of their last five Saturday, and I would be remiss in not congratulating them here at HokieCentral.

Last week, a couple of people emailed me and unintentionally shamed me into evaluating how I was treating the team ... or rather, not treating them.  I wasn't going to games, I wasn't writing game reports, and all I was doing was posting one-liners and links to box scores and articles.  Some of that I can blame on the new baby, some of it I can blame on the embarrassing loss to ETSU (and Wake Forest, and WVU), but most of it, I can blame on me.

And the emergence of the Tech women's team, which suddenly took up time from covering the men's team, but that's another topic....

Anyway, I started thinking about it, and although the wins were scarce for Tech's men's team until lately, the effort wasn't.  They have continued to work hard, and I have never seen one iota of "quit" in them, even as fan criticism and apathy peaked.

Every college basketball team should be so lucky as to have a person of Eddie Lucas's caliber, and Rolan Roberts knows the value and meaning of the word commitment more than most young men his age.  Andre Ray, who has been a classy, soft-spoken ambassador for Tech since the day he set foot on campus, continues to try to do the things he does well, and to play his role to the hilt.  Brendan Dunlop, despite all the whispers of how he's just an "adequate" backup point guard and really shouldn't be starting for a major Division 1 team, continues to reach deep and come up with everything he's got.

Heck, Bobby Hussey even smiled and gave a thumbs-up to the crowd after a recent win over GW.

All this effort and dedication came to a head in Saturday's game against Fordham, when the Hokies refused to quit, even though they were down 10 with a minute to go.  The result was an improbable overtime win that I know I'll never forget, and I don't think you will, either.

We once thought this team might never reach ten wins, but with several games to go in the regular season, they're already there. Bill Roth made an interesting comment during Saturday's game, when he said that the December loss to WVU, in which Tech led by ten with two minutes to go, put this team into shock, and put them in a funk that took weeks to recover from.

Indeed, at one point they were mired in a five-game losing streak, and found themselves at 5-9, 0-5 in the conference.  Since then, they've gone a respectable 5-3, and 5-2 in conference.  At this point, signs of progress and improvement are all we can ask for from this depleted roster, and we're getting that.

Gentlemen, I salute you, for not quitting when many others would have given up.   Keep plugging - .500 is only a couple of wins away.


Tech Notes

  • The possible 2002 Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) game with Tennessee continues to move forward in the planning stages.  BMS has finished a preliminary engineering study and thinks that converting the track for use as a football field would be feasible, and would cost about $750k-$850k.  Those costs could easily be recouped by selling tickets for the 150,000+ seats that would be available.  According to a recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, BMS has notified Tech AD Jim Weaver of the study and wants to call him next week to "ascertain if there is interest."  Uh, fellas, don't even bother.  There's interest.
  • I think the Tech coverage provided by The Roanoke Times has been excellent lately.  After taking much (justified) abuse last August for basically not covering the Tech football team during pre-season practice, the RT has cleaned up their act.  I thought their Tech football coverage was more prevalent than UVa football coverage, particularly the bowl coverage, but where they have really stepped it up is in their coverage of the women's basketball team.  The RT was not caught off-guard by the success of the women's' team, and has provided excellent coverage, including game articles and player profiles.  They really shined when they provided game articles and pictures of December's Diamond Club Classic victories, even while the bulk of their efforts were concentrated on covering Tech and UVa at the Music City Bowl and Peach Bowl.  Dan Uthman's replacement, Mark Berman, has been the one to provide the lion's share of coverage of Tech women's basketball.  And even Jack Bogaczyk has penned a column or two about Bonnie and her players.
  • Message board host Grassy Knoll has implemented a new set of Big East Message Boards as a way for Big East fans to gather at a central point on the web to discuss football (never mind hoops - really, never mind).  I will be integrating the new boards into my Links Page in the future.  The Tech board located there provides a good free alternative to HokieCentral's message board, which now requires membership to get a password.  Also, Grassy is looking for a moderator for the Tech boards, so if you're interested, contact him at grassy@grassy.com.
  • Speaking of links, the Hokie Club (VTAF) now has a new web site, and although it's still in the embryonic stages, it's a vast improvement over their old site.  Take a look at www.HokieClub.com.   I have added a link to the new VTAF site, plus Baltimore Hokie's Cyberspace Chapter of the Hokie Club, to my Links Page.

          

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