How could Frances Silva have known?
She was a freshman, granted the Big East’s Rookie of the Year, but still a freshman, and there she was with her West Virginia University teammates playing in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, so close to reaching the final.
“That was an experience, but as a freshman you take it for granted, thinking it’s the norm,” she said as she took a moment out from returning to her fourth and final NCAA Tournament, which begins here at 7 o’clock tonight against Rutgers.
She learned the hard way that reaching the Sweet 16 is anything but a birthright.
While becoming a star player and the leader of the Mountaineers as a sophomore and junior and helping them to the NCAAs each year, both were terrible disappointments with first-round exits.
Now the Mountaineers are back for the 14th consecutive season under coach Nikki-Izzo Brown, back as the Big 12’s tournament champion, and they are hoping to make a push this season deeply into the tournament.
“Having gone out in the first round the last couple of years makes me personally more hungry to get back to the Sweet 16 or further. You don’t want to end your season like that,” Silva said.
Why does Silva believe the team failed to advance in each of the last two NCAAs?
“You have to stay focused,” she said. “Not to say we weren’t focused the last couple of years, but there is a little extra focus now. Virginia Tech, or whoever we may face in the next game, isn’t even talked about. It’s all about Rutgers. We have to first take care of business there.”
It’s a different kind of focus needed now.
“It’s a mentality, a focus. Not to say other games aren’t as important, but in the playoffs if you’re down 1-0 and there’s 20 minutes left, there’s a desperate situation that comes in. Adjustments have to be made where you might not make them during the regular season,” she said.
“It’s not that different. It’s still a soccer game, but there’s a little change, and it comes to game planning.”
The NCAAs are pretty much all that’s left for Silva to accomplish. She’s seen championships in both the Big East and Big 12.
Her 43 points are the most scored by any senior in school history.
Her 15 assists this year also rank as a school record, while her 43 points are second only to the 47 Chrissie Abbott had in 2002, and Silva may have a few games left to add to her total.
But this is not the time of year that anyone is thinking of personal accomplishments.
This is about winning, especially if you are a senior and you are facing for the first time what may be your final collegiate game every time you go out onto the field.
“I try not to think about it,” she said. “You have to go out and make sure that game isn’t the last game.”
Oddly, WVU began its season matched up with Rutgers in an Aug. 13 exhibition game, which it won easily, 3-0.
“They are a solid team, definitely not the team from pre-season. It’s not going to be a cakewalk and beat them, 3-0,” Silva said. “They have some special players. All the teams will from here on out. It’s the best teams. We can’t overlook anyone.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.
How could Frances Silva have known?
Polar Bear tennis sweeps East: PHOTOS
Last week East Fairmont’s girls’ tennis team beat Fairmont Senior, 4-3.
Wednesday at Fairmont State University, the Polar Bears returned the favor with a 5-2 win over their cross-town rival.
Alissa Link won No. 1 singles, 8-4. Morgan Hoke won No. 3 singles, 9-7. And Avery Towns won No. 4 singles, 8-5, for the Polar Bears.
Falcons set for spring game
Football is back … well, kind of.
Today at 7 p.m., Fairmont State will hold its annual Maroon & White spring game at Duvall-Rosier Field. The scoreboard won’t mean a whole lot since it’s little more than a glorified scrimmage. Instead, here are five things to watch during today’s game.
HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age
The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
“There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”
Hillberry commits to Wesleyan
Last year Emma Harrison and Kaitlyn Conaway teamed up with Alexis Hillberry to win several relay medals at the state track meet.
Though the two West Virginia Wesleyan runners are now in college, they helped to pass the baton to Hillberry Wednesday when she signed her National Letter of Intent to join her former teammates on the Bobcats’ track team.
O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall
Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.
North, East softball earn blowout wins
The North Marion softball team was at it again Wednesday night.
Mattie Polling tripled and singled, starting pitcher Chelsi Latocha doubled and gave up just one hit as the Huskies rolled to another 3-inning mercy-rule victory over Lewis County, 18-1.
Simon, Bruce lead Reds past Bucs, 5-2
Alfredo Simon pitched into the seventh inning despite erratic control, Jay Bruce drove in a run for a fifth consecutive game and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 Wednesday night.
Simon (3-1) worked 6 2-3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits and five walks while striking out four.
Pens squander lead, fall to Columbus
Brandon Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Nick Foligno’s wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Cousins Sansalone, Craig lead Polar Bears past B-U: PHOTOS
They say you don’t mess with family. Buckhannon-Upshur found that one out the hard way.
Mascaro signs with FSU
Gabi Mascaro is staying in Fairmont.
After considering several out-of-state colleges, the Fairmont Senior soccer standout signed her National Letter of Intent Tuesday to continue her career at Fairmont State University, an upstart program which will play its first games in 2015.
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