Seniors hope for ‘dreamy’ final season

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“Fly me high through the starry skies/Maybe to an astral plane. Dream weaver.”

Those are the lyrics to Gary Wright’s 1975 hit song “Dream Weaver.” While its real meaning remains hidden and best left to English majors who can pour over and interpret each word, the song can easily be applied to the senior leadership on Marquette’s women’s basketball team.

This year, the squad will feature three seniors. Crystal Weaver (by virtue of her last name, she is the best fit for the song, although the other two seniors are equally important), Kelly Schwerman and Katie O’Grady are looking to lead the Golden Eagles “high through the starry skies” to the NCAA tournament, an “astral plane” that Marquette’s women’s team has not visited since 2000.

“The leadership of this senior class, they’re on a mission to make this a great year,” head coach Terri Mitchell said. “You expect us coaches to say that. It’s our job, it’s our livelihood — we’re thinking about it all the time. But when it comes from your seniors, then you know you’re in good hands.”

Last year, the women faced two emotionally-wrenching exits from two different postseason tournaments. The first came at the hands of the Charlotte 49ers in the second round of the Conference USA tournament, when Charlotte’s Pam Brown made a buzzer-beating layup to best the Golden Eagles by two points, winning, 67-65.

The second loss was meted out by the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Golden Eagles were 16.9 seconds away from advancing to the third round when the Hawkeyes ripped the lead away, beating Marquette, 76-73.

This year, the women don’t just want to do a little better than last year; they want to make the leap from the NIT to the Big Dance — the NCAA Tournament — especially since this is the last shot for Weaver, Schwerman and O’Grady.

“Oh, it’s a big goal,” Weaver, who will play forward, said of getting to the tournament. “The past two years we haven’t. My first two years we didn’t even make it to the postseason. We’re excited, we’re going into conference ready to work hard and ready to do what the coaches ask of us.”

“I think it’s definitely one of our main goals,” said O’Grady, a 5-foot-8 guard who will see a lot of time coming off the bench. “Crystal, Kelly and I are seniors, and we have never been to the NCAA tournament. This is our last year, and believe me, we are going to do our best to try and get there.”

“The seniors are looking at it and saying, ‘this is our last year,'” said Schwerman, a sharpshooter who should be penciled in to start at guard. “We want to go out with something special. In the end, we want to make it to the NCAAs. We’re not focusing on that now though, we’re focusing on the steps leading up to that.”

The Golden Eagles won’t have to rely solely on the Dream Weavers, however.

Sophomore Carolyn Kieger is hoping to build on an outstanding freshman debut last year, when she started at point guard for Marquette and earned a spot on C-USA’s All Freshmen team. Freshman Danielle Kamm and sophomore Efueko Osagie will be scoring threats, while a mixed trio — freshman Christina Quaye, sophomore Sarah Shouse and junior transfer Monica Frede — will take turns at center, playing what Mitchell calls “post-by-committee.”

The Golden Eagles will be C-USA underdogs this year, picked to finish in the middle of the pack.

Kieger knows this, and welcomes the challenge.

“No one is expecting us to win,” she said. “We’re picked in the middle, and we know we’re better than that. It’ll be fun once we prove to people that we’re real and we can play. Yeah, we are the underdogs, and for right now that’s fine. We’ve just got to make sure we’re working hard, and hopefully we won’t be the underdogs anymore.”

Two women from last year’s team are no longer at Marquette. Center Rachel Klug graduated after leading the team in field goal percentage and points scored, while junior guard Katie Alsdurf, second on the team in points scored, transferred to Minnesota.

Mitchell will try to fill Klug’s absence with the aforementioned “post-by-committee,” using each player in a way to maximize each of their specific skills.

“With Rachel last year it was kind of all-or-nothing,” she said. “This year, if one of them is not playing well we know there’s somebody else. And if someone’s playing well, we just stick with the person who’s playing well. And there’s an unselfishness on our team to understand that every game is different, people respond in different ways, and the greater goal is the team goal and not individual success.”

The women will also be switching homes in the middle of the season. On Jan. 4, 2004, Marquette’s women’s basketball team will play its first game ever in the brand new Al McGuire Center after playing the first half of the season in the U.S. Cellular Arena.

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