by GRACE BERGER
IU Women’s Basketball Star
As I reflect on our recent Elite Eight run in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, I realize that our program has been building up to that moment for many years. It has not always been a smooth ride, but each event—good and bad—played a large role in where we are now and will continue to go in the future.
When I first got to Indiana University in the summer of 2018, the program had just come off the WNIT championship. While that was an enormous accomplishment, Coach [Teri] Moren and the staff made it clear from day one that we had bigger goals moving forward. That was simply the starting point.
The 2018–19 season was filled with ups and downs, from losing four games in a row to beating the No. 10 team in the country on
our own floor. Even at our lowest points, it was constantly preached to us that the only thing we needed to do was keep our heads down and continue to work to be better, because better days were ahead. We ended that roller coaster season by sneaking into the NCAA Tournament and winning just the second Tournament game in the history of our program.
After the historical NCAA Tournament appearance, we entered the off-season with high hopes, returning the majority of our key players. The 2019-20 season did not disappoint. We had won 24 games (we were the only team to beat South Carolina that season) and were set to have the highest seed in the history of our program. The excitement quickly turned to disappointment on March 12, 2020, when the NCAA cancelled the Tournament just days before Selection Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Admittedly, it took me and my teammates several weeks to put that season behind us and move on to the next. When we returned to campus in June, daily safety protocols were put in place that would become the norm and we quickly realized that this season would be one like no other.
There was so much uncertainty this year and every day it was in the back of our minds that one positive [COVID-19] test could derail our season for the next few weeks. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the year was that we were one of the only teams without any positive cases from start to finish. We used this as an opportunity to get closer as a team and went on to have the most successful regular season in the history of the program.
The cancellation of the 2020 Tournament along with our successful season resulted in a lot of excitement and high expectations heading into the post season. After each win, we celebrated things that had never been done at IU before. The celebrations were short-lived, however, as we quickly shifted focus to winning the next game and continuing this historical run.
Coming just a couple baskets short of reaching the Final Four was certainly heartbreaking, but as I reflect, it is hard to deny how monumental that was for our program. With all five starters returning—with this experience in addition to the new pieces being added—we fully expect to continue making history next season. We cannot wait to be able to play again in front of Hoosier Nation and have them with us as we enter next season with the goal o*f winning the Big Ten Championship and making it to the Final Four.