Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

UConn doubling their Final Four pleasure


The UConn locker room had yet to be opened to the assembled media but the Connecticut reporters who made the trip to Lincoln to document the Huskies' women's basketball team advancing to the Final Four for an unprecedented seventh year in a row had a willing recipient for a barrage of questions.

Warde Manuel, UConn's director of athletics, had flown back and forth between New York and Nebraska to see first the men's team and then the women's squad punch tickets to the Final Four.

"I think Kevin (Ollie), Geno (Auriemma) and both of their staffs relish the fact that I have to traverse the United States to see them," Manuel said with a laugh..

"I don't have any problem with it at all, it has been easy for me and know I have to travel to support both teams. I am just so proud and it is just a proud moment for the university. While it has happened four times here, it is not something that we take for granted."

This is the first time Manuel has witnessed both teams reaching the national semifinals while being on the inside. So, did he see this coming?

"At the beginning of the year I am the type of AD that takes it one game at a time. I really thought of the possibility when we both won the first two games (in the NCAA tournament) and you start to think about it 'could we do it again.' Then we win the third game each and then we win last night with the men and today the women were able to pull it out and win. Now I can really realize it is going to happen. My staff has been behind the scenes trying to play for both possibilities and we are looking forward to executing it and having our fan base see both of our programs in the Final Four."

The UConn players watched the men's team beat Michigan State and for those staying in the Embassy Suites, it didn't take much effort to see which room the team was watching the men's Elite Eight game in.

"We were in the hotel room watching their game and when we realized that they won and
made it to the Final Four, we ran out into the hall screaming and excited," UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson said. "We were texting each other, they texted us after our game tonight. It’s just a camaraderie between the two teams. I think it’s something pretty special that not a lot of schools have.”

The women's players and men's players have always had a pretty strong bond. They see each other before and after practices at Gampel Pavilion and are often at the other team's games. Coaches from both teams will chat with the players when they run into them inside of hallways of Gampel Pavilion.

"I am sure it is awesome back there (on campus)," UConn senior guard Bria Hartley said. "Just kind of the way our men were able to come back and not being able to participate in the tournament last year and coming out this year and making a statement, nobody thought they would make it to the Final Four and I am so proud of how hard they work. Coach Ollie, he has done a great job with them and he really instilled a lot of confidence in those guys."

Last but certainly not least, here are the thoughts of Lincoln Regional Most Outstanding Player Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis on UConn being the only team able to win both the men's and women's national titles this season.

“I think it’s the expectations that both of the coaches have for the players," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I know obviously first hand that our coach expects us to be working hard every single day. The intensity level doesn’t change regardless of who we’re playing. As for Coach Kevin Ollie, I’ve watched some of his practices and talked to the guys and he expects nothing but the best from his guys, the best effort. He expects heart from them every day and I think they’ve showed that throughout the whole tournament.”


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