Learning how to balance individual excitement while keeping the intensity of the game extremely high was one of the team’s most difficult concepts to master. Keeping composure during the fast pace of play often became impossible.
We were motivated to play all out every time we stepped onto the court. Knowing that you are only going to get a minute of playing time helps in holding nothing back. It’s funny to look back on things now. One of our team’s main concerns, the substitution patterns, became custom, and any other way of playing became unsatisfactory.
It is rare that two players that have the same position get equal opportunity to showcase their abilities. In the case of our team, this happened every game. Our two senior centers, Jill Friedman and Susan Marchiano, were our top two scorers and rebounders, despite playing on the court together for only a couple of minutes the entire season. In the Scotty Wood Tournament, our team’s first and second rotation shooting guards, Gwen Doyle and Erin DeVaney, both won All-Tournament honors. That is basically unheard of.
It remains very difficult to describe to outsiders the bonds our team shared. When we entered into such a unique system, we also entered into an unspoken pact with one another. Extreme trust and dedication in our teammates and our style of play was a necessity. This was a huge component in bringing our team together.
The records we broke and points we scored may have been at the top of the media’s list, but the 18 girls behind the operation had a slightly different view. The season taught us a new way of basketball that was more fun than anything we had ever experienced. We looked forward to practices and got extremely excited and pumped for games. We all felt so free and powerful, running all over the court without set plays. We learned life lessons through this system that otherwise would have gone undiscovered: strong trust in our teammates, respect of individuals and indescribable companionship.
Coach Rohn may have been somewhat extreme when he thought up his extravagant plan, but for us he changed basketball forever. We progressed into one of the greatest shows in the nation, averaging more points a game than any other NCAA women’s team. We may not have been the best team in the country and may not have attracted millions of fans, but we played amazing basketball and never lost sight of what is really important: having fun!
FEBRUARY 28, 2004
The locker room was virtually silent. The only sound that could be heard was that of heavy breathing of our team as we gasped to catch our breath. The disappointment in the room was so thick you could almost touch it, yet no one said a word. The screaming cheers that filled the gymnasium just seconds ago were replaced by teary eyes.
Over the season the “Grinnell system” slowly had changed into the “Muhlenberg system” that we lived and died by. The frequent phone calls Coach Rohn would make on a regular basis to the Grinnell head coach soon stopped and were replaced by other coaches around the nation calling him. Yet, however effective the system may have been, the blank stares throughout the small room showed indications of extreme disappointment.
Once again our season had been cut short in the Centennial Conference playoffs and our dream of the NCAA Tournament disappeared. Yet this season’s end was different from that of the past years. The conclusion was bittersweet. We knew how good our team really was and, although we were upset, it was much easier to stay positive knowing everything we had accomplished.
Coach entered the room quietly and looked around. The sadness in our faces left him with an uncharacteristic loss of words for a long while. In a type of soothing whisper he explained that although we were saddened by the loss, there was no reason for us not to hold our heads high; our team was special and everyone knew it. Coach thanked our team for making the season so fun, and in the back of all of our minds, although no one said a word, we were thanking him for the exact same thing.