Hens Use Family Bond On And Off The Floor To Lift Them To Unprecedented Heights
By: Matt Janus
Little Rock, AR- The seventh-ranked University of Delaware women’s basketball program landed in Little Rock, Arkansas on Friday morning with high spirits and even higher expectations. Delaware will play a true road game to begin their NCAA tournament on Sunday against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. It might bother some teams to achieve so much in the regular season only to be placed in a hostile atmosphere to open the postseason. But this group of Blue Hens is not fazed by it even a bit.
It is exactly that attitude that in many ways has allowed this particular team to be so successful. Nothing seems to bother them, not a lack of national attention, not physical play, not even poor officiating.
One of the biggest reasons for this resilience is the close-knit nature of these Hens. It’s easy for a team that wins to be happy, but Delaware’s camaraderie goes much deeper than that. These girls like each other and as corny as it sounds have come together to form a family. That tight bond allows them to easily move past any petty adversity that might creep up.
This was evident even before the season started when transfers Akeema Richards and Trumae Lucas became eligible and Kayla Miller returned from back surgery. Their additions meant that playing time would all but disappear for players who got multiple starts in 2011. This would have led to drama on many teams and would have been fatal to the team chemistry of others, but for UD in 2012 it was a virtual non-factor.
Most of the credit for that goes to Vanessa Kabongo and Meghan McLean, who accepted their new roles on the bench without even a word of dissent. Not an easy task for two seniors who went long stretches without ever touching the floor in their final collegiate season.
Why were they able to get through it so smoothly? Because those two players cared more about winning games than their final line in the box score. It is a common trait amongst every Blue Hen and it is what makes them so special.
"I think this team, they get it," said Delaware head coach Tina Martin. "I’ve had some teams where chemistry-wise we were good teams, but we struggle a little bit in certain areas. This time I haven’t had to struggle, once we sat down and talked about what our roles were going to be and what we needed to do as a team.
"This team is special in that they really understand what it means to be a team. And so this team is the best team I’ve ever coached at Delaware."
Some groups are tough, others are oober-talented, others still are unselfish. Rare is it to find a team that displays all three characteristics. But then again, how often do you see a mid-major program earn a three-seed in the NCAA tournament?
This Delaware team spits in the eye of the expected and they do it together as one. The result has been a one-of-a-kind season.