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Archive for December, 2008

     heartIf you haven’t seen it, Mark Schwarz of ESPN interviewed former hoops standout Elena Delle Donne for an “Outside the Lines” piece for Dec. 28 and wrote an accompanying story for ESPN.com about her decision this past summer to leave basketball and UConn. I also wrote a column for ESPN.com that mentioned two former top recruits, Nicole Kaczmarski and Nina Smith, whose hoops careers didn’t turn out as expected. 

  It’s likely the comments in Schwarz’s story will not make UConn coach Geno Auriemma look very good to some readers. I like Auriemma a lot and think he’s as great a coach as there is in basketball – at any level and for either gender – but some of his comments got on my nerves, too.
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  948dd50266768ae8Driving to St. Louis on Christmas Eve, I heard Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas” on the radio three times. It’s a song that always reminds me of the 1998 Women’s Final Four. Before I get to why … here’s a little background. (Or a lot.)

 The event was in Kansas City that year. I’d been working at the KC Star since October 1996 and had been looking toward the WFF the whole time.
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old_dominion_monarchs_798861My close pal since college, Mike Holtzclaw, has followed the Old Dominion women for many years. His wife, Vicki Friedman, is the longtime ODU women’s beat writer for the Virginian Pilot in Norfolk. Mike has covered sports and entertainment for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., and he offers this take on ODU’s recent encounters with two powerhouses:  

This is how a 29-game home winning streak turns into a two-game home losing streak. Old Dominion hosted Tennessee on Thursday and Maryland on Sunday and lost both games despite leading in the final minutes.
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  penn-state-logoSaturday night in sub-zero Omaha, Penn State’s women’s volleyball team finished a perfect season and, for the second year in a row, won the NCAA title.

  The Nittany Lions had four first-team All-Americans and lost just two sets all season – both coming in Thursday night’s amazing 3-2 semifinal win against Nebraska. For ESPN.com, I wrote about the issue of whether 38-0 Penn State is the best women’s volleyball team in NCAA history. 
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   Twice this week, the Pac-10 had a chance to knock off Duke and earn points for a league that has struggled getting wins against marquee opponents. But it didn’t happen either time.
    izebhvgxjbnpsww200809091915232Tuesday, Duke held off visiting Stanford 56-52 in a “battle” of who made the least of many miscues between the two. Then the Blue Devils jetted to Tinseltown for a matchup with Southern Cal that had “dangerous” stamped on it for Duke.
    And, indeed, it looked like USC was going to do what the Cardinal couldn’t. In the end, though, a career-high 22 points from Jasmine Thomas (photo), which was matched by Chante Black (who is having a fantastic season) propelled the Devils to a “they-really-needed-this” 97-89 win. In overtime, no less. 

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Meanwhile in Omaha …

jpg00000How about the volleyball Final Four – two high-quality matches that went the distance … with the latter leaving several thousand heartbroken Huskers fans.
  I’ll be going to the championship match _ between Penn State and Stanford _ on Saturday to cover it for ESPN.com, and I have a feeling a lot of those sad Nebraska fans will still show up. That’s just the way they are. And they’ll want Omaha to look good, even though it will be painful for them to watch a Husker-less final.
  Interesting side note: I wrote about Auburn basketball this week for ESPN.com (Auburn needs SOME good news now, right, with football being a big mess?) And I talked to Tigers coach Nell Fortner about her days playing volleyball as well as basketball at Texas in 1977-81. (Texas lost to Stanford in the first v-ball semifinal Thursday, if you weren’t watching.)
Fortner competed there in volleyball as a freshman and sophomore, and guess who her coach was in that sport those seasons? The same woman who coached the basketball team, Jody Conradt. That’s the way things were in those days.
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Blue + Cardinal = mess

  duke_logoDuke was host to Stanford on Tuesday, a game on ESPN that certainly appeared promising. It just didn’t turn out that way. That’s putting it mildly.

  By the time the Cardinal had finished clanking free throws (12 of 27), both teams had made the 3-point shot look like scaling Everest (a combined 7 of 32) and had tossed the ball away like Iraqi shoes (combined 37 TOs), and the refs had put the frosting on this cowpie with a crummy call … well, I was tempted to put up this blog:

Headline: Duke vs. Stanford

Blog entry: This game was crap.

Poll: Was this game crap?

  But then I decided there was probably a bit more to say about Duke’s 56-52 win. For instance, the fact that it reminded me of one of the stupider things I’ve ever done. 
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