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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

UConn seniors get emotional at championship celebration

Considering Stefanie Dolson's well-earned reputation for being a ham, my first reaction was she was just putting on another show as her voice cracked when she addressed the crowd at the championship celebration outside the Student Union earlier today.

However, the longer Dolson's speech went, the more clear it became that the emotions were getting the best of her. She was followed by fellow senior Bria Hartley, who was a blubbering mess as she turned to thank UConn coach Geno Auriemma for all he did for her over the last four years.

I've been to so many events when UConn stars address the crowd after winning a national title but for pure emotion, nothing topped what I saw from Dolson and Hartley today.

"When you come back here and you have all these people here supporting you, the football team, the men's team," Hartley said. "It is pretty awesome going out this way ans finished out the season the way we did all year but at the same time, I can't believe it is over."

Dolson knew that she was going to have a hard time holding it together when she grabbed the microphone after UConn coach Geno Auriemma spoke to the gathered crowd.

"These whole last few days have been really emotional and even Coach got emotional so it is a feeling I will never forget," Dolson said. "I knew going up there when I was going to talk to the fans and all the students, it was just something special. Winning yesterday was amazing and then coming back and seeing everyone knowing that this can't happen again, knowing that this is the last one... I'll be back but I won't be playing anymore."

So did Dolson think that her emotional speech would result in Hartley also shedding tears during her speech?

"I wasn't sure," Dolson said. "I think she would have been fine if she wasn't addressing Coach. I think she is not as emotional person as I am or she doesn't show it as much but I think her crying was a shock to me and everyone but I know how she feels at this moment as well."

The tears actually started flowing when Dolson and Hartley were subbed out late in the national championship game. Dolson and then Hartley had emotion-filled embraces with Auriemma when they come off the court for the final time as Huskies.

"I have no idea other than I am getting old," Auriemma said.." I don't get mad and crazy on the sidelines anymore. People will say what is the difference between an undefeated season and a perfect season? Well, '94-95 was a perfect season, 2002 was a perfect season and I think 2014 was a perfect season because  99.9 percent of the time, every day that I went to work with these kids it was perfect. There were bumps in the road like any other time but maybe it couldn't have been orchestrated any better than it was. It is like going back to Pam Webber and Rebecca Lobo (during the 1994-95 season). Do you want to make a comparison? Pam Webber and Rebecca Lobo; Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley that to me, the same emotion that I felt that night with those guys that you don't see because TV wasn't as big of a factor back then. Remember Rebecca Lobo kind of breaking down a little bit on the podium and saying I did exactly what I wanted to do and I did it with people I love. These two are in the same category. I don;t know where it came from, it certainly wasn't planned that is for sure.

"I didn't want it to be like that. Let me say this, if those two kids hadn't come off the court the way they did, it might not have affected me. Bria Hartley is dribbling the ball out there, she knows I am going to sub her out and she already can't see straight. She is already blabbering so that kind of makes you (realize) 'wow, this is big.' In the end, the fact that this is the end of something really special. Right now if you told me you were going to get three Bria Hartleys and two Stefanie Dolsons next year, the following year you are going to get two Stefanies and three Brias, I will tell you that I will coach until I am 90. The problem is those kids come along few and far between where you know it is going to be emotional. With whole group with Asjha (Jones), Swin (Cash) and those guys, you know that it is going to be hard to relive that. Renee (Montgomery) and Tina (Charles) ... Sue (Bird) did when she came off the court and Diana (Taurasi)  did, it was different back then, it was a different era."

As for the speeches to the crowd, here are the highlights starting with Auriemma..

"When you come to school here, you are a champion and live with champions anytime you walk down the street.

"When you guys won Monday night, it almost made it feel like it was destiny, we were supposed to do this."

Then it was Dolson's turn.

"Being able to play in front of you guys for four years has been an honor. I am going to miss this a lot. You guys have been the best fans and I couldn't have asked for anything more." 

Then came the most emotional part of the festivities courtesy of Hartley.

"Coach, you mean so much to me and I love you so much. I wouldn't be the person I am today without you and you fans are amazing." 



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