The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

75° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Seniors use tough times as motivation

    UA senior guard Ashley Whisonant dribbles during a 76-70 exhibition win over Vanguard on Oct. 5 in McKale Center. Whisonant leads the team this season with her tremendous guard play and ability to help new faces adjust.
    UA senior guard Ashley Whisonant dribbles during a 76-70 exhibition win over Vanguard on Oct. 5 in McKale Center. Whisonant leads the team this season with her tremendous guard play and ability to help new faces adjust.

    The 2004-2005 season seems like an eternity ago for the senior members of the Arizona women’s basketball team. One was in her sophomore season, while two others were in their freshmen years, entering a program that had reached the postseason eight of the previous nine years.

    Winning was a foregone conclusion at Arizona, and that is what they signed on for.

    Unfortunately, that season was the the last time the Wildcats have made the NCAA Tournament, much less compile a winning record.

    Tragedy struck the following September when beloved teammate Shawntinice Polk passed away, leaving the team in a state of shock.

    Since the death of “”Polkey,”” the UA program has struggled to return to form.

    Subsequent losing and pain prompted many players to transfer. Arizona had seven players transfer between 2004 and this season.

    Despite the tragedy and upheaval, three seniors remained and persevered, proving their strong love for and allegiance to their team.

    “”I belong here,”” said forward Shannon Hobson. “”I can’t imagine being anywhere else.””

    Added guard Jessica Arnold: “”I know it’s frustrating to not win and be successful. But I believe in staying with something I believe in, and I believe in this program.””

    Their loyalty is not lost on their teammates.

    With six underclassmen, as well as two other first-year players, leadership becomes increasingly important for Arizona.

    Guard Marie McGee said the experience the seniors bring has yielded noticeable effects.

    The seniors “”have strong leadership and a strong presence on the floor especially,”” she said. “”Since so many people have left, it’s nice to see people staying and sticking it through.””

    A strong motivator keeping the three seniors with the Wildcats is the success they all tasted early in their careers.

    Hobson, who received a medical redshirt during her junior season, experienced college basketball’s biggest stage twice, in 2004 and 2005. Arnold and guard Ashley Whisonant had the honor only once, and agree that once is not enough.

    “”My senior year we want to win. We’re not going to take anything else,”” Arnold said. “”I want to go back to the NCAA Tournament so bad, and I’m sure everyone else does.””

    These high expectations are not only held by the seniors on the team. Prior to the Wildcats’ first official practice this offseason, head coach Joan Bonvicini showed the squad a video from the team’s last NCAA Tournament appearance. It was a video Bonvicini herself had not even seen.

    In the video were the current seniors, Arnold and Whisonant included.

    Bonvicini pointed out the excitement among the players and stressed to her team that the postseason is where they want to be again.

    “”I know that’s where (the seniors) want to be,”” Bonvicini said, “”and I know they really want to solidify their senior year with success.””

    To escape a two-year slump and qualify for the NCAA Tournament would surely put a positive cap on the careers of the team’s most faithful players.

    In Bonvicini’s words, the program and all the players involved have “”gone through things I wouldn’t wish on anybody.””

    Yet, despite all the tough times the seniors have endured, and the tears shed, they agree their time at Arizona has been positive overall, and that the struggles have only made them stronger and hungrier to go out on top.

    “”Every player here has had a tremendous impact on my life,”” Whisonant said. “”Even the down times I’ll look at and see how much I came through and how much better of a person I’ve become from just being here.””

    The troubles “”have made (the team) stronger,”” she said, “”and I think we’re capable of doing some great things.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search