The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 1, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - WVU seniors end journey with victory

MORGANTOWN — They stood there at the podium in the West Virginia media room, three young ladies …. one from Princeton, N.J., another from San Antonio, Tex., the third from Steubenville, Ohio, wearing something they had not worn very often lately — a smile.

“Sisters,” Liz Repella said of the three, herself, Korinne Campbell and Sarah Miles. They were, she assured those who were listening “family.”

The others agreed, as if they had to. You could have seen it moments earlier when they — along with fellow seniors Madina Ali and Vanessa House — stood at center court on Senior Night, a crucial 69-49 victory over St. John’s in their gift chest, hugging and grinning as the cameras captured it all for Facebook pages across the world and some future reunion.

This was something you could not buy, this feeling they had, a feeling that you don’t get too often outside a locker room where you share both the happy moments and the sad, where both tears of joy and tears of sorrow often flow.

“Four years I’ve been here,” Repella said, not carrying a bit about the 22 points she had put on the scoreboard or the nine rebounds she had taken off the backboard.

As important as this 22nd victory of the season was, one that may even change their destiny and launch them toward a run in the Big East Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament, it was not as important as the relationship the five seniors had built under Mike Carey.

Repella thought back to that freshman who came out of Steubenville and made the trip to WVU, about that first year seeing the seniors go through their Senior Day.

“You never think that will be you as a freshman,” she said. “I still don’t think it hit me.”

She doesn’t realize it, but it won’t hit her until it’s over, until there are no more journeys down the carpet and the trip to center court, until she puts the books away and maybe until she puts the basketball away for good.

She’s make friends, Campbell and Miles will, too, but it won’t really be the same because it can’t be the same as a college teammate, a sister, so to speak.

Miles knew right from the moment she got up that it would be a special day, an emotional day that will burn itself into her mind.

She didn’t know how strong that emotion would be, for it is something you cannot anticipate no matter how many times you may watch others go through it. You can’t even capture the full emotion when it is your own teammates when you are a sophomore or a junior.

It’s as they say, you have to be there.

And they were here, all right.

Outside the record high of 66 degrees had fallen down below 30 and the rain that had drenched the morning and afternoon had turned to snowflakes by the time the game came around. The arena went dark and the colors came out, joined by the night’s singer of the National Anthem.

Her name was Melanie. Melanie Campbell, Korinne’s sister.

Some may have thought that it was a nice touch her on Senior Night, but sure hope she doesn’t ruin the song.

Then she began to sing.

“Oh, say can you see … “

Her voice filled the Coliseum, a strong, sweet soprano unlike any this building has ever heard, certainly different than what Snoop Dogg had brought to the building just 48 hours later.

It was a wonderful start to a wonderful night. Who knew Melanie Campbell was a professional singer who is just now making it in the United States after appearing in Europe.

When she left the game began, and that has been lately when the fun ends. West Virginia had lost seven of nine games and had only once in all those games scored more than 60 points. What had started as a 16-0 season seemed to threaten to end in tragedy.

Coach Mike Carey wanted none of that, for he truly does love this senior class, calling it the best group of seniors he has worked with in 30 years of coaching, men or women.

“I wanted these seniors to go out on the home floor with a win,” Carey would say. “It was as important to me as was a win and we were playing for our lives.”

The seniors saw to it that he got it. They played defense so hard that St. John’s could manage only 49 points, could find a way to assist on only three baskets. They turned the St. John’s point guard upside down until she had one assist and nine turnovers, her coach calling her “awful” and saying it was the worst game of her life.

At the same time Repella had 22, Miles 16, Campbell 13. Ali added nine with nine rebounds and Houst played 20 minutes and had a couple of points while playing a solid floor game.

The Mountaineers took charge in the second half, then hugged each other warmly, took that last walk to the locker and readied themselves for a Monday night party that might still be going on and Carey won’t care at all.

Why should he? He’s probably there.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

 

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