sometimes you just gotta dance

I’ve become quite accustomed to this hotel already.  I guess I’m used to hotel rooms now.  I can’t even imagine how much my dad misses home when he’s away if I already miss Connecticut and I’ve only been away for a week.  
I went down to breakfast and was very pleased to see that in our hotel restaurant is an omelet station! I will be getting one of those tomorrow…that is, if I beat the team to it.  They had it on lockdown this morning.  After getting my food, I overheard the team asking JJ if the special bags from Nike had arrived.  These bags, kind of like goody bags, are the way they welcome the teams to the Final Four.  We had gotten a few really cool items last year, so the team was anxious to know what was being offered this year.  JJ said that they couldn’t go up to see them without a key, since they were all in my Dad’s room.  At this point, Dad had just come down to get food, and I was on my way up to his room to change my practice shirt, as my white shirt had become the victim of an exploding blueberry (next time I’m using my hands, none of this fork business).  I looked over at Dad, who flipped me his key and said “You guys can go up with Ally, no problem!” 
I practically had to fight them off as we went up to the room, and the way they treated the bags, you would think it was Christmas morning.  The swag this year was pretty simple…shirts and a watch and some other items that I can’t really remember at this point in time.  I think Nike’s trying to cut back on some of its spending due to the economy being so dismal.  Good for them.  
After that, we went on to film, and practice at a local junior college.  At the beginning of practice, to warm up, the team runs two laps around the gym.  Tahirah always wins.  At the end of the lap, I went to highfive her, and she said “39-0, baby.”  
Practice went pretty well, although the gym was stifling.  Dad finally made his Lebron underhand shot! And Tahirah made a half-court bomb as well.  
I wish I could say that the rest of the afternoon was just as exciting, but since I wasn’t needed at the Scottrade Center for the starting five/coach interviews, I went back to the hotel with the rest of the team and decided to check out the fitness room.  As it turned out, Shea was in the workout room too, and I made the absolutely horrible decision to hop on the machine next to her, thinking that if I did that, I’d work harder.  Boy, did I.  If you ever get a chance to work out next to Shea Ralph, don’t do it.  You will completely regret it because you will never ever work out as hard as Shea, or be as intense as Shea.  I tried, and I almost fell off the elliptical.  Lesson learned.
Tonight was the best part.  We had the Salute To The Final Four presentation and buffet, and it’s always really fun watching the team get dressed up.  Lorin, in particular, looked amazing, and I kept threatening her that if she put her jacket on and covered up, I would just come and take it right back off.  The buffet itself was great, although it was a little difficult for me and dad to find food without meat in it (gotta love Lent).  After walking around with Dad and debating the different options with him, I finally managed to dig the chicken out of a veggie stirfry and put it on top of salad, along with some fruit (I gave up dessert for Lent).  I know that as Geno’s daughter, I shouldn’t even be fazed by famous athletes, but there were a few points tonight where I was taken aback by Courtney Paris, and Jayne Appel, whose performance against Iowa State has me just the tiniest bit freaked out about our rematch on Sunday.
There was a live band playing some great songs, and I can’t really go into exactly what transpired because frankly it defies description…but just imagine girls from Stanford, Louisville, Oklahoma and UCONN doing a massive Electric Slide, and you’re halfway there.  Even Dad got into it.  Oh, he didn’t leave his seat, but he knows how to dance sitting down like very few do.  And there’s really nothing like the sight of Desiree Byrd and Tina Charles having a dance off.  Something similar happened last year on the boat during the Tampa Final Four Salute, although that was really between just us and LSU.  Needless to say, we won.  
The presentation was nice and understated, but the real thrill for me was seeing Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who came to speak as a representative celebrity of St. Louis.  She gave a short but effective speech about how the Final Four is a ‘gateway’ to opportunities, something that was reiterated throughout the night.  I think they’re beating the whole ‘archway’ thing a bit to death, but it’s still a good metaphor.
Tomorrow promises to be a bit busier, but I think it’ll be fun.  They’re announcing the WBCA All-Americans and the recipient of the Wade Trophy.  Speaking of awards, congratulations to Renee for winning the Nancy Lieberman Award! The Lieberman, for those who don’t know, is the female equivalent of the Bob Cousy Award for the best point guard in America.  Richly deserved, and couldn’t have gone to a greater girl.
More tomorrow, and the family arrives, including my beloved Nonna.  We have adjoining rooms…hopefully she won’t yell at me for how messy mine already is…
PS.  ESPN Classic is replaying a lot of classic games from the Final Four in the next few days.  Next Tuesday, they’re replaying our 1995 game against Tennessee.  

meet me in st. louis…and bring an umbrella!

I have no idea how these girls manage to keep up this frenetic pace in the postseason.  I’m not even doing half the work they’re doing and I feel like I’m about to keel over.  But since we arrived here in Missouri today, I might as well impart what went on today.  It will be a short entry, I assure you!

Yesterday was my only day at home in CT, and it was cloudy and slightly cold but still a very good day.  Last night my sister’s husband lugged a gigantic takeout bag from PF Chang’s to our house (good guy, that husband of hers!) and we feasted while watching, what else, game tape from the Regionals.  Although by the time we got to the Arizona State game, I could barely keep my eyes open, and I ended up passing out around halftime.  Ah, well.  I lived through it once, don’t need to see it again.
Today was a big bundle of deja vu from the second we arrived to get on the bus.  The exact same people were there, I had all of the same bags and I was even wearing the same sweatpants.  It was a gorgeous day, and I kept hoping that if it was this nice in CT, hopefully it would be just as beautiful in MO.  And I can’t stop thinking about drinking an Arnold Palmer again! Thanks, Kaili!
FYI: for those of you not from the Northeast, an Arnold Palmer is a drink that is half iced tea, half lemonade.  I’m sorry if some of you thought I wanted the golfer Arnold Palmer…I’m more of a Phil Mickelson kind of gal.
We go to the airport and get on the plane, and it was a pretty tiny plane.  The gangplank was just big enough for one person, and it was lopsided seating wise (one seat on the left, two to the right).  And I can do a lot of things in my life, but there is one thing I will never be, and that is a comfortable flier on planes.  Every little shake, twist, or bump, and my head will scream out “THIS IS IT WE’RE ALL DOOMED.”  So you can imagine how I felt getting on this little thing.  And then the turbulence started…Jacquie laughed at me for how I reacted to it, but I personally think that putting your head down on the airplane tray and plugging your ears is a suitable way to deal with it.  It beats screaming, which is what I wanted to do.  I have no idea how some people sleep on planes.  I used to be able to.  Indeed, I once passed out on Nykesha Sales’ shoulder before an 8 hour flight from Hawaii to Chicago and didn’t wake up until they were serving breakfast.  But I just get too nervous now.  Aw.  I’m growing up.
After saying thank you to the purple-haired flight attendant, I almost kissed the ground when I deplaned, but didn’t want to get my mouth wet with rainwater.  Yes, it’s raining.  Pouring, in fact.  A nice little tidbit that a security guard offered me was that there had been thunderstorms all day in town, but we had just missed them.  On the way to the hotel, the bus stopped at a light across from the Arch.  I had never seen it before and I was pretty surprised at how wide it is.  I always thought of it as being tall and skinny, but it’s got a vast space beneath it (it’s sort of set in the middle of an open space, almost like a park).  Of course, I took a picture.  The hotel itself is pretty big and kind of intimidating, but Shea and I were thrilled when we ran to check out the fitness room and discovered they had more than one elliptical machine! We kind of annoyed the people working out in there, I think…probably because we started dancing…
When we got to the hotel, we were greeted by a group of girls from a special club that promotes healthy relationships between girls and the development of their character, and they did a truly amazing step-dance for us that had to be seen to be believed.  It was pretty thrilling, and the team went nuts when they finished.  Maya looked over at us and said “I love them so much!”
And now, I’m in my hotel room after unpacking and taking almost the last one of my Amoxicillin (thank goodness!), typing and watching HBO, a luxury since I don’t have it at home due to my mother being opposed to cable.  I can hear the wind blast against my hotel window right now and I can feel my eyes closing.  And tomorrow promises to be…insanity…
PS.  I didn’t know she was doing this, but Heather Buck is doing a blog.  Ch-ch-check it out.

we ain’t so bad…

“Coming in to congratulate me again?”
Of course, Dad.  We’re going to St. Louis!
I’m pretty tired, I won’t lie to you (and would I ever lie to my devoted blog-viewers?).  We got back to our car at around 2 in the morning last night in Manchester, so I think I crawled into bed around 3.  I thought the bus ride home would be more amped up than it was, but everyone was so tired that we were about fifteen minutes into the bus ride movie (Untraceable) and everyone, including me, passed out.  But I must impart my thoughts on yesterday and the game. 
Yesterday I woke up, went down to breakfast, and packed my bags since we’d be leaving after the game.  Shootaround was pretty interesting, and a far cry from the slightly scattered attitude of the previous practice.  They went through drills calmly, and Dad directed their offense and defense with authority.  I saw a lot of what they ran during the game last night, and a lot of it was executed with great results.  Sometimes it went wrong, but you can’t expect it to go perfect 100% of the time.  It’d be so boring if it did.  At one point, I clapped for Tina on a good play, and Kaili looked at me and whispered, “Cheerleader over there!” Of course! What else would I do?
The girls played the “stick the balls in the net” game again, and almost gave up on getting nine in there when Tina got two balls stuck on the sides of the net, and then it was a free for all.  We were so excited to get the nine that getting ten in there seemed impossible.  Well, I was getting a drink of water when Caroline poked me on the shoulder and whispered “We got another one!” Sure enough, I looked up and balancing precariously on the top of the pile was one more ball.   Perfect.

Last night was both exhilarating and infuriating, in my eyes (and the eyes of everyone watching at the Sovereign Bank Arena).  First, let me get the bad parts out of the way.  

That was the worst officiated Elite Eight game I have ever had the displeasure of sitting through.  It got to the point where I thought Dad was literally going to strangle anything that would stand still.  Much has been made of the third foul call on Renee, and I would like to take this opportunity to remind all of you that the ref that made the call was the same ref that nearly fouled Renee out of the national semifinals last year.  Maybe he’s just jealous that Renee has swagger that he’ll never have?
But, I digress.  There was much to love about this game, but by the end of it I was so upset with the officiating that at the 3 minute mark I turned to Mom and said “This game needs to just go into a vault and end already!”  And it did, thank goodness, and on to the celebration! 
I have a tradition within myself that whenever we win a big game like this, I need to be on the court with the team and with my Dad.  I have a laminated picture from when we advanced to the Elite Eight in 1994 of my sister, my brother and I hugging my dad on the court, so it’s been 15 years of tradition.  I was not about to break that! My mom and brother wanted to stay up with the family, so I ran up the stairs and around the side, only to remember that since this was a converted hockey rink, they didn’t have an opening onto the court like at the XL Center.  Thankfully, the security guy let me pull a Prison Break.  Yes, I hopped the barrier.  I immediately found Shea first and hugged her, and she laughed and said “I’m not sure what to do, I’ve never done one of these as a coach! Where do I go?!” I wasn’t sure!
Then I found my dad, who looked so happy.  You can tell my dad is happy when he really doesn’t have much to say, but simply stands there and smiles.  And he was doing quite a bit of that last night.  He hugged me, and gave me his hat to wear, which I immediately plopped on my head.  It came across my mind “Hmm, I hope this doesn’t make me look like a total idiot if I get seen on ESPN.”  And about ten minutes later, a friend of mine texted me “I saw you in that cute hat!” Nice.
I walked out with Dad and the team into the locker room, where I encountered a dance party of epic proportions.  Everyone was completely freaking out, as they should be! I took a ton of pictures, with the promise that I’d tag Lorin on facebook (she jumped into all my pictures with the cry “Tag me! Tag me!”)  After the dance party ended (with Kalana doing the robot), Dad addressed the team, walking around in circles, musing to himself more than really speaking at anyone.  He spoke of the concept of team, and what it means to pick someone up when they fall down, and how to be there for someone when they’re not having a good game.  He said, “When Renee didn’t have a great game on Sunday, Tiffany stepped up…and I think Tiff realized that Renee was going to have a great game tonight, so she could play like crap tonight,” which everyone thought was hilarious.  He then singled out individuals for their achievements, particularly Renee, Maya, and Tina, and with words for Meghan and Kaili as well…and then ended with “Tiffany played like crap, good work,” which made Tiffany laugh.  If the refs hadn’t called her on dumb hand checks then I think she would have been more comfortable.
After that, they went on to media, where someone actually told dad that he broke down the passing on our plays to about 1.7 every possession, after a very long-winded mathematical process.  His question? “Do you feel comfortable with only having 1.7 touches on every possession or would you like to have more?” Dad simply smiled and said “I’d like to know as a reporter how you had enough time to figure that (stuff) out.” Touche.
Before the game, I got interviewed by Mike DiMauro from the New London Day! Thanks, Mike! I’m glad you like my blog!
Then, the uneventful ride home.  I’m happy that I managed to sleep on the bus, it was an easy and comfortable trip, if very very long.  
In the car after we got dropped off by the bus, Dad turned up the volume on a 70s classic station, and as we turned onto our street, it blasted, I kid you not, “Ladies Night”.  
Oh, what a night.
Next time I update, it’ll be from the Lou…
PS.  Rebecca said it on her Twitter, and I agree…I need to learn how Coach Thorn from ASU squats in those short skirts.  I tried it in the locker room the other day at practice and I fell on my face.
PPS.  Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve gotten about fifty friend requests on Facebook from people who like what I’m doing and want to know more about me.  While I can’t tell you how grateful and appreciative I am that people are so into what I’m doing and I’m truly very humbled by all the great press this blog gets, I simply just don’t accept friend requests that I’m not friends with outside of the Internet.  I never have.  Please don’t take it personally if you tried to friend me and I denied you, it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the gesture.  I am really quite flattered at all the attention I’m getting, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and that line is, apparently, facebook.  However, I am open to all messages and questions or compliments or slander, so feel free to message me on there!  
PPPS.  Saying that these girls are arrogant is like saying the moon is made of Gorgonzola.  These girls are the nicest, coolest girls on the planet, who just happen to be better than anyone else in the country at the game of basketball.  If that’s arrogance, then I’ll eat my All-Access Pass.

marissa coleman needs a hug

Thank you’s need to go out to John Altavilla from the Courant for showcasing my blog today.  Although I must tell you, my name is spelled Alysa, not Alyssa.  You are not the first person to butcher my name, so don’t feel too guilty about it.  It’s not nearly as bad as when I get calls from the telemarketer people.  “Hello, may I please speak to Geno…Oreenanama?” Um, what?
Today wasn’t nearly as busy as I thought it would be.  I got up around 9 and had breakfast with the team, and realized that until 12:15, I’d be free of obligations while the team had study hall (God, I’m so happy I’m not in school anymore).  I went to the workout room, which is slightly better than pathetic, and attempted to perfect my physical fitness after a week of refusing to work out because of my illness.  I didn’t do too badly. 
We practiced at the Arena today instead of the Rider campus so there weren’t any free baskets for me to shoot, so  I watched as the girls tried to get eight balls stuck in the basket.  Their previous record was seven.  After getting the seven in there, Maya grabbed a ball and tried to gently loop it on top of the rest.  It turned into a huge deal, with everyone cheering her on.  Dad came over and I thought he was going to tell everyone to stop, but instead he started coaching Maya on how to spin the ball so it would stick.  “No rotation! If you put no rotation on it it’ll stay!” he cried.  Finally, Maya got it to land, and everyone lost their minds, including Pops.
And then practice started, and it was a different matter entirely.  Dad wasn’t exactly sunshine and roses today, but he only raised his voice once.  The rest of the time, he did things that he’s been doing to me my entire life:
1. He’ll shake his head and throw up his hands, like to say “I have had ENOUGH of this.”
2. He’ll start talking to himself sarcastically, repeating key words.  “Yeah, let’s do that.  Let’s do that.  Let’s do that.  Blah, blah blah, blah BLAH.” 
3. He complains to Shea, CD, Jamelle, my mom, a brick wall, anyone who will listen.  “Can you believe this? How many times do we have to run this? Get her out of there.  They refuse to listen.  I can’t put up with this crap anymore.”
When those run out, he turns to the secret option number 4: His head explodes.

The rest of the afternoon passed without incident.  I hung out with the rest of the team while the five starters and Dad went to media for an hour.  It was fun, if a bit tedious.  We couldn’t leave until everyone got back, so we sat around and played a bit of Pictionary.  I watched a vicious game of poker between Kaili, Caroline, Tahirah, Lorin, and Jamelle.  Instead of chips or money, they bet abdominal crunches.  At last tally, I believe JJ has to do about forty of them, but she swore she’d only do ten a day until the season is over.  

Then I had about two hours to get ready for dinner (it didn’t take me that long, don’t worry…I’m a girl but not that bad).  I wore shoes that really had no business being on my feet, and my ankle is very upset with me right now, but like I said, I’m a girl.  I like high shoes.
Dinner was great.  There really is nothing better than enjoying a quiet dinner with people that you love.

I think we ruined a lot of people’s hopes for that at the restaurant tonight.  We were in a private room watching the Maryland/Louisville game while we ate (my salmon with asparagus was just this side of ridiculous), and I’m pretty sure everyone else dining there just hated us afterward.  We were a freakshow.  But it was all worth it! I am so happy for Louisville, representing the Big East in the Final Four.  Now, let’s get there too so they don’t have all the fun.  We were all rooting for the Cardinals, and it didn’t hit me that they’d win until Angel McCoughtry hit that three at the end of the game to put Maryland away for good.  I had been saying to everyone after Angel bricked her third three attempt that she would keep shooting them until she made one, and when she did, my dad’s reaction was thus:
“DON’T SHOOT THAT!….*throws up hands* YES!!!”
That was so satisfying to me, even though I wanted us to play Maryland very badly.  It would’ve been awesome to get to see Toliver take on Renee.  But I guess we’ll never know.  Our cheers immediately died down at the sight of Marisa Coleman and Kristi Toliver sobbing on the bench.  My heart went out to them.  I know exactly what that feels like.  Well, not exactly, but an approximation of that heartbreak is something that I’ve felt every couple of Aprils for the past 23 years.
I know I was supposed to talk about the Elite Eights of past and what they meant to me, but this entry has gone on for too long.  Today I think I will talk a little bit about the Elite Eight against Virginia in 1995.
My experience watching that game was terrifying.  I was nine, and I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but knew in my heart that it wasn’t good.  I looked up at the clock and realized at halftime that we weren’t winning, something that was foreign and bizarre that season.  I was so accustomed to us winning every game that when we were threatened with a loss, my gut reaction was to run off the court into the players lounge and start sobbing.  I think my mom came and got me, or a friend.  I’m not sure.  All I remember is that when we run, I went off like a shotgun to find Dad and I think I almost knocked him off his feet.  I was crying hysterically and I think I soaked his shirt.  I didn’t care.  All I remember is Dad whispering in my ear, “We did it.  Can you believe it? We won the game.”
Yes Daddy.  We won the game.
We’ve hopefully got three more this year to win.  Let’s see how the ball falls…
PS.  Another perk when you win the Elite Eight game? The free clothing.  I think I still have some of the hats from the Regionals and Final Fours.  I don’t think I took off the Minneapolis Championship shirt for five days.
PPS. According to my sister, this blog is ‘fierce.’  I had no idea she even knew how to use that word as an adjective.  

scared-y cats at a huskies game

No Louisville in the Final Four.  I was really hoping they’d gut it out, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  Maybe next year.

I’m getting quite popular.  One of the guys who comes to the games in a UCONN cape and ball Afro hat on his head came up to me as I was leaving and said “I love your blog!” Thank you, Cape Man!

My family thinks it’s very funny that I’m doing this.  They’re very honest with me, so the fact that they like what I’m writing is great encouragement.  Jenna even thought I was funny…first time that’s ever happened.  Even Dad likes it.  After he was done with media, he came over for a hug but not before shouting “What are you doing? No bloggers allowed in here!”
So, we survive to play in the Elite Eight.  I’m sure the first half had some fantastic moments, but I will have to see them on tape.  Why? Because I refused to watch.  I spent the entire first half of the game pacing the concourse (a bad idea, given my choice of footwear) and standing in a bathroom stall, my heart racing.  I inherited my anxiety from Dad.  Now, both of us are really quite mild when you compare us to my uncle Ferruccio (yes, that’s his name).  Fru is the worst.  He didn’t come back from the concourse until we were up by 20.  Even I came back when we got up by 10!  We all get it from the Grandmother of Anxiety, my Nonna.  Nonna will act like Mussolini’s soldiers are coming to take her away when we’re losing or not playing well, so I’m shocked she stayed in her seat the entire game today.  She’s coming back on Tuesday, so I’m hoping we all keep it together for the sake of the team.
But anyway, the game itself (once we stopped losing our minds) was great.  I gave Tiffany a gigantic hug when she came back from media, because I was just so proud of her.  She really carried us on her shoulders, not just in points but in all aspects of the game.  Her stat line was incredible.  Everyone who played had little moments where they really shined.  Kaili didn’t put up a lot of points but she had 9 rebounds against a very physically tough Cal team, and Tina had a few monstrous blocks.  And what is there left to say about Maya that hasn’t already been said? 
I can’t really say what Dad said in the locker room before the game because I wasn’t allowed in the building until 11AM.  We got to the building at 10:30, but my mother, a few other people and myself were not allowed inside until everyone else went in.  The reason? We were “non-essential personnel.”  I have a fault with this system.  My mom is married to essential personnel.  I share the DNA of an essential personnel.  This seems like a no-brainer to me.
After the game, I stuck around to listen to the media interviews (I had a nifty little lanyard with the All Access sticker on it) and say hello to some personnel, and we left around halftime of the Arizona St/Texas A&M game.  I was figuring we’d play the Aggies on Tuesday so I was pleasantly surprised to see the Sun Devils win.  
Tomorrow, aside from what’s going on during the day (more of the same from yesterday and probably even more crazed), I will be posting my thoughts on Elite 8s past, both the dizzying highs and the devastating lows.  Being born into this whole nutty situation that I find myself in, you either have a fantastic April or a totally crappy one based on a few games in March.  It’s sometimes a breeze, sometimes a thunderstorm.  But there’s always a few stories in there somewhere…
Oh, and Go Pitt!
PS. I can tell you something about Maya that hasn’t already been said…she really, really, really likes my mom’s Thanksgiving punch.  

symbol of might to the foe

So, we have two-with potential for three-Big East teams in the Men’s Final Four! I was thrilled to see Villanova beat Pitt, not only because Nova is one of my favorite teams, but because I think that of all the teams left in the tournament, Pitt was the only one that could give our UCONN men a really hard time in Detroit.  I would be very happy if it came down to a Nova/UCONN showdown in the championship game.  Now all that’s left to do is root for Pitino’s Cardinals to get in.

The Louisville women did a great job today against Baylor.  I cannot wait to see Angel McCoughtry take on Marissa Coleman.  I’d be afraid to play them, though.  Something about Maryland’s attitude gives me the sense that they really do eat kids, like their apparent team motto says.
Today we had quite a long day.  Well, when I say ‘we’, I mean more the team than me.  I just followed them around.  I got woken up by my dad at 8AM (and by that I mean he threw open the door of my room and shouted “Yo! Get up!”).  I immediately took my cocktail of Mucinex, Amoxicillin, and Tylenol, and hustled downstairs for breakfast and film.  I still am not very hungry (stupid virus) so I missed out on the pancakes and bacon that the team had.
The team’s schedule was kind of insane.  We had regular practice, a meeting with an NCAA official to discuss gambling (the rule being “don’t do it or else”), media interviews, open practice, and then finally back to the hotel.  During the regular, private practice, I challenged Dad to a game of one on one, which probably wasn’t the best idea while in recovery from a virus.  Long story short, I will quote Shea Ralph on what transpired: “I saw you get your butt kicked.” But in fairness, I had a pretty great move where I backed Dad into the basket, then sort of tossed it up at the net and wished it to go in.  And it did, so I think it was a pretty great manuever.  
Then private practice started, and it was very smooth.  Dad didn’t raise his voice much.  When he did, it was to prove a point.  I think what people don’t understand about my father is that when he gets really, really mad at his players, it’s when they’re not living up to their full potential.  If he’s on your case all the time, it’s because he cares about what you’re doing to the point where it physically hurts him that you’re not doing better.  He wants to see you live up to the very best that you can be, in all aspects of your life.  
Another thing that really gets me angry is when people think of my father as being arrogant.  There is a line between being arrogant and simply being confident and assertive.  What my father is in his private life is far different than his public persona.  He’s a quiet, self-effacing, calm man who’s extremely humbled by the honors that have come his way.
I know a lot of people who read my blog aren’t coming here because they want to be converted into a UCONN fan after hating us and my father.  I know my audience.  You’re diehards who eat up everything about the program.  I salute you!
Back to my day.  During the wait in the locker room before the media personnel came in, Tahirah started up a game of Movie Pictionary on the whiteboard, which turned into a screaming match.  I think Slumdog Millionaire was shouted at least twelve times, as well as a few really random ones.  I think my favorite was Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood.  My favorite drawing of the competition was done by Kalana, who got Borat and drew a very realistic sketch of Sascha Baron Cohen in his swimsuit, something that had to be quickly erased before media.  
Then the media came in and I felt like I was in the way, so I put my iPod earbuds in and hung out in a corner until I had a conversation with John Altavilla, who runs the women’s blog over at the Hartford Courant.  We have the same interest in musicals, so we talked a bit about what revivals look good and which ones don’t (West Side Story, we agreed, looks incredible).  Plus, he told me he likes my blog! Maybe I’ll get a shoutout on his next entry? One can only hope.  
After the interviews, we went out onto the court for open practice and got a warm welcome by all in attendance, and I attempted to get into the mode of practice by clapping along with everyone and rebounding for the guards.  They managed to get seven balls stuck in the net, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.  It originally was an accident, and then once the rest of the team got wind of it, they tried to get as many balls as possible in it.  Then they had to get them out, and it took quite a long time before Tiffany leapt and punched them out of the netting.  At one point, my dad game over and mimed gagging me while I yelled encouragement to the team.  What a joker, but I’m actually pretty thankful that he didn’t try and tickle me.  I would’ve beaned him in the head with a NCAA sanctioned ball.
At the end of NCAA open practices, Dad lets the team use the last minute to take half-court shots.  He does them too! Today he’s been obsessed with the LeBron James underhand swish from 60 Minutes, and spent the last minute trying to recreate it and failing miserably.  I really did want him to make one, but they kept bouncing off the backboard.
The rest of the afternoon was a bit uneventful.  I got to see Rebecca for a little bit but I forgot to tell her how hilarious I find her Twitter page to be (  Really after practice there was nothing left to do but hang out, watch the Maryland game, and go to dinner, where we watched the end of the UCONN/Mizzou game and the beginning of the Nova/Pitt.  Renee and I agree that Jay Wright can really do no wrong in our eyes.  Somewhere Gina is screaming “TRAITOR! TRAITOR!”
And now, the moment that she’s been waiting for…Miss Connie Yan of Connecticut aka my best friend for twelve years, here’s your shoutout.  I miss you, and when I come home (Tuesday night, if we’re so blessed), there will be seats at our favorite sushi happy hour with our names on it.  And now I’m hungry again.
Off to watch more of the Iowa State/Michigan State game.  God, gotta love March!
PS.  I was so happy today to turn on ESPN and see none other than Jen Rizzotti next to Kara Lawson in the studio!  And those oldschool clips were hysterical…at some points of those Final Four clips you can see me and my brother and sister in the background.  Granted, we’re babies, but it’s still cute.

eating meat on fridays still is a problem…

First of all let me say this: GO WILDCATS! I was thrilled watching last night’s Villanova/Duke game (I am the daughter of Philly people, after all).  Nova played an incredible game from a defensive standpoint.  They forced Duke to play their tempo, and by the end of the game, Coach K’s team was completely worn out.  My parents were out at dinner and at one point I called Dad just to squeal “Are you seeing this?!”  And I’m not ashamed to say that I am a fan of Jay Wright (I’m saying this simply to annoy one of my dearest friends, Gina, who is, to put it lightly, not a fan.  Love you, bella).  

I’m blogging now from the team hotel, safe and sound here in Trenton after a four hour bus ride through the southernmost parts of CT and NYC.  We caught a bit of traffic in Southington that had me worried we’d be here no sooner than midnight, but it ended up being a pretty smooth ride.  I dozed off halfway through and woke up about an hour out from our hotel, so I managed to have a good time with Kaili and Caroline in the back of the bus.  And because of Kaili, I am now craving an Arnold Palmer.  

One thing I want to mention is the back seat on the bus, a seat that I was shocked I snagged! The back of the bus, traditionally, contain the seats known as the Senior Seats.  You did not venture back there unless you earned it.  As a kid, I had one seat: Up in front with my dad.  Sometimes I sat with the players, but usually I left them alone.  As I got older and friendly with the managers, I sat with them.  Even now, at 23 years old, I felt a little bit intimidated about sitting there.  Halfway through the trip I had to get up and walk down the bus aisle to ask my mom a question and had to ease my way over someone’s legs, and I suddenly thought of all the times when I was very very little, and had to get up to use the bathroom.  There would be about ten pairs of legs, belonging to very tall people who had dozed off to sleep, thrown on the opposing seats like some sort of obstacle course.  A terrifying prospect to a ten year old who just wants to use the toilet without waking Paige Sauer, or Amy Duran, or Nykesha Sales, or whoever I was in danger of disturbing.  I remember sometimes jumping over them, or just giving up and crawling underneath their feet to get to the bathroom, and repeating the movements on the way back.  Ah, the sacrifices…

I should probably say a few things about me at this point, because sometimes I get confused with my sister, Jenna, who isn’t a bad person to be confused with seeing as she’s pretty much the best girl I know.  It’s actually become even funnier when people find out who I am, because now they instantly go “Are you the one who’s married?”  Nope.  I’m the actress.  I’m the weird one who doesn’t play any sports (although you could make that argument for my sister as well). I actually got a lot of people who came to see my performance as Guenevere in Camelot last November because they wanted to see if I was any good (because God forbid the daughter of a sports person is good at something else! Oh, the humanity!).  I did play sports, though. At one point in my life, I played softball, soccer, and basketball.  I was a three sport athlete.  
The sound you just heard was my father falling off a chair laughing.  But ask him how I could crack a softball off my bat.  It was genius, I tell you!  But then I discovered how much I loved theatre, and I made the difficult choice to give up basketball when it became clear that I would not be able to continue it and pursue my dreams of being onstage at the same time.  I was fifteen, and I was a very good shooter, but there was no way a Div 1 school was going to recruit me.  I could’ve begged my dad to take me as a walkon, but I probably wouldn’t have survived one practice.  Everything you’ve heard about his practices? They’re harder.
For now, though? Bed.  I have a very, very long day ahead of me.  Practice, film, open practice…and I’m not even doing any of it.  I’ll be sitting in a corner, drinking coffee and wondering how long I’ll get to shoot on an open hoop.  
Maybe I should unpack if I’m planning on being here for five days…
PS: Another little nugget from my past…I used to force the team to watch whatever I wanted to watch.  Colleen Healy reminded me just this past January that I made them watch Bye Bye Birdie until they had to restrain themselves from strangling me.  I was a theatre geek from birth, I guess.
PPS: Go read my friend Maria Conlon’s guest blogs on John Altavilla’s column:

cue the theme from ‘jaws’

If this blog looks slightly disjointed it’s because I’m currently pulling myself out of the depths of a disgusting virus that’s currently having a field day on my ENT.  Now that I’m properly medicated and fed (Amy’s Organic Soups are ridiculously delicious), I’m ready to blog!  
Dad’s way of dealing with my sickness was simple and rustic: I pleaded with him to get me a blanket as I lay comatose on the couch, and he obliged.  And then put another one on me for good measure.  
Something that must be addressed in this, my second blog attempt, is the attention my father (and then to a certain extent, my sister and brother and mother and I) get from the fans.  Sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s invasive, sometimes it’s awkward.  I almost laughed today at the walk-in clinic when the doctor, after peering into my esophagus, said to me “I just have to say, I think your dad is great.  But I won’t talk about him anymore.”  Ten seconds later…”So are you going to Trenton?”  
Keep in mind this just after he put a light in my ear and determined that I wasn’t plugged up.  He then put his prescription in my hand and wished me good luck with the tournament…I didn’t even know I was playing…
Another fun thing to get in my mailbox is Facebook friend requests.  There’s a fantastic little button on their engine called “Friends in Common.” When I get a new friend request and click on that, I sometimes am confronted by fifty players and managers, and while I’m flattered that that’s why they want to friend me, it’s not exactly the way I like to meet  people.  I get at least two of these requests per week, as does my sister and brother.  Sometimes people refuse to give up and friend me multiple times.  

“What did you think?”

That was the question posed to me last night by dear old Dad.  It was around 11 PM, and he had just walked in the door after the Florida game, a game that I had been, I confess, really nervous about.  I had zero reason to be nervous in the end, but I’m like my dad in that respect.  I get worried over things like that.  One thing that we share is our sense of anxiety.  That, and our yearning for parmigiano reggiano.
I was hasty in my response.  I said they look really good, Kaili’s passing was ridiculous (loved that all three of her bigtime assists were on Sportscenter!), and Maya was awesome as usual…how’s Tiffany’s knee (it’s fine, by the way), and then it got a discussion of the way the game itself was played.  I thought that Florida played hard, but they played the way that most teams play against us: If you can’t beat us, beat the snot out of us and hope that works.  It didn’t exactly work for Louisville and sadly Florida didn’t get the memo.  I also thought their coach was so involved with complaining to the officials, that she missed the fact that the problem was more with the players and not the way the game was called (although I thought some of the calls were completely “uncalled” for…sorry I had to).
In response to the nosy doctor’s question, yes I will be going to Trenton…if I have my druthers, I will be driving with the team on the bus.  I usually go (when I’ve gone to the regionals) with the team on the bus or plane and stay with them the entire time.  It’s an interesting experience, being with the team now that I’m 23 as opposed to when I was a little girl or teenager.  The last time I went to a regional, I was about to end my junior year of high school.  My, things change!
 But that is for another entry.  For now, amoxicillin and ESPN Classic with the Pops, who wanted to walk in the woods behind our house with me.  If I could get up from the couch long enough to walk four feet, I’d take him up on that offer.
Oooh, ESPN Classic is doing a Buzzer Beater countdown! Ten bucks says it’s Laettner or Lorenzo Charles…

it’s sneakernight

Cannot believe they’re using a Vanessa Hudgens song for the NCAA women’s theme song.  What?
This idea kind of has been percolating in my head for a few days.  I saw how popular Rebecca Lobo’s Twitter has become, but I honestly didn’t feel like just giving you small soundbites, no matter how funny hers are (and they are pretty hilarious…loved that she told everyone that my dad takes pictures of Clive Owen to the hairdresser).  Anyway.
An interesting tidbit of info: My dad turned 55 yesterday, which is my younger brother’s basketball number at St. Joe’s.  I like it when numbers match up like that.  Unfortunately they didn’t make the NCAA or the NIT, but I think they have a good shot next year.  He’s a good guard with a great mind. 
The Vermont game looked to the outside viewer as your typical blowout from us, but when you look closer, there were really some astonishing things going on in there.  When Jacquie Fernandes made those two threes, the entire bench lost their minds, something that I think is indicative of how much these guys like each other.  They really are all great friends and would do anything for each other.  And that team chemistry, I think, is what will carry them pretty far in this tournament.  And all of the credit to the world to UVM for playing their butts off for all 40 minutes of the game.  Courtnay Pilypaitis (God I hope I’m spelling that right) reminded Dad and I of Kerry Bascom.  A smart, tough, gifted competitor.  And if there are people who don’t know who that is who are reading this…Google it and be amazed.  I can’t wait to see us play them next year.  Fight Hard for Forty, indeed.

The second thing on my blog has to address the Tennessee/Ball State game.  First of all, why in God’s name did they interview Coach Summitt after the game? She looked like she’d been hit by a bus, as I’m sure she felt.   It’s a stunning defeat.  Second of all, I give all of the credit in the world to Ball State for not going insane in the last five minutes and blowing the lead, like some teams will do when they realize that the game is swinging their way and all they worked for could come true.  I credit the coach of the Cardinals, Kelly Packard, for maintaining her sangfroid during the last few moments.  Every time the camera swung to her, she was the picture of calm.  No hysterics, no “OH MY GOD WE’RE GONNA BEAT THEM” moments of realization.  She was the captain of a tight ship and steered them where they needed to go, and it was pretty awesome to see.  Even greater? Seeing her face when she realized the game was theirs.  My dad pointed at the TV and said “She wants to smile, you can tell.”  But she didn’t fully let go until the game was over, and then she looked delighted.  As she should be.  I just hope they do well in their next game and don’t get whipped.

Speaking of getting whipped…holy crap, Auburn!  Yeesh.  
That’s all for now.  Tune in to ESPN or ESPN2 tonight at around 7:14 for our game against Florida.  I wonder if that article about the alligator in South Windsor has anything to do with their being in town….?