Published on March 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm Contact Kevin: email@example.com Unlike her senior teammates, Brittney Sykes hadn’t been through the NCAA tournament selection show experience of waiting to see if her team’s name would be called. Even if Syracuse didn’t make it this year, Sykes would still have three more chances to make it to the Big Dance.Still, that didn’t bring Sykes much comfort as the brackets were revealed.“I was as nervous as they were,” Sykes said. “I’m sitting next to Kayla (Alexander), each bracket that came up – Bridgeport and the Notre Dame bracket came up – and our name wasn’t called yet. I’m sitting there like, ‘Ugh, guys, I’m a little nervous.’”Sykes had nothing to worry about. Syracuse earned a No. 7 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament on Monday night. The Orange will face No. 10-seed Creighton in a first-round matchup Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn., at 11:20 a.m. The Syracuse-Creighton winner will face the winner of No. 2-seed Tennessee and No. 15-seed Oral Roberts on Monday.For Sykes and the rest of SU’s five-player freshman contingent, the tournament berth marked a quick reward for the beginning of a potentially prosperous Syracuse career. But the seniors – led by all-time leading scorer Alexander, along with career 1,000-point-scorers Carmen-Tyson Thomas and Elashier Hall – watched the show knowing this was their last chance to play in the NCAA tournament.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSo when Syracuse’s seeding was announced, head coach Quentin Hillsman couldn’t help but feel pride for his seniors.“It’s awesome for them,” Hillsman said. “What else can they ask for? Just for themselves, to go on to life after college. They’ll all have an opportunity to play if they would like to play, but just to have that experience now, to have been in the NCAA tournament, is critical for them.”The team watched in a film room on the second floor of the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. As the first three regions were revealed, Syracuse’s name was not called. After a 24-7 season and third-place finish in Big East regular-season play, the Orange was a supposed lock this year.Still, for the seniors who have waited four years for this moment, seeing Syracuse’s name flash on the screen elicited positive emotions. With an NCAA tournament matchup approaching, the week ahead is sure to induce a special mood, Hall said.“None of us players have ever been in this situation, so we don’t really know what to expect,” Hall said. “Definitely another level of intensity, another level of excitement and competitiveness. We’re all excited to be here, in this position.”Six straight conference wins pushed SU’s record to 22-3 midway through February, but Syracuse lost three straight, the last a 77-75 triple-overtime loss to Villanova. The setback caused Hillsman and players to express concern that the team’s tournament berth wasn’t yet sealed, even as a top-five team in a conference that was ultimately awarded eight bids on Monday.But after beating Louisville on Senior Night for SU’s first win over a ranked team, those worries were put to rest.“We’re really relaxed right now,” Hillsman said. “We knew we were in the tournament about a week and a half, two weeks ago, so I think the stress was kind of off. It was just about us getting through the Big East tournament, winning some games and being healthy.”Hillsman said the team will run a normal morning practice Tuesday before beginning adjustments Wednesday in anticipation of the 789-mile trip to Knoxville.For Tyson-Thomas, the mood at practice will certainly be altered by the week’s anticipation, despite having won 10 Women’s National Invitation Tournament games in her career.“Ironically, it’s a different atmosphere,” Tyson-Thomas said. “We’re still going to be in the Carmelo Anthony Center, but it’s a different atmosphere. You know now that we’re going to something bigger, we’re in something different. We’ve got to bring a whole different level of play to the game, so I feel as though everything’s going to be a little tricked up.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+
Women’s volleyball will ride a ten-game winning streak into Norman, Oklahoma, on Thursday to take on Oklahoma and Maryland in the Oklahoma Invitational. After racking up four three-set victories to win the USC Classic last weekend, the team will look to execute its game plan and open Pac-12 play at UCLA on Sept. 23 with a perfect record.The Women of Troy are ranked third in the nation, behind Penn State and Texas, after starting the season at No. 22 last month. Much of their success in the early season has been thanks to senior outside hitter Samantha Bricio. Last week, the Guadalajara, Mexico, native became the first player in over a decade, and the second overall, to win three consecutive Pac-12 Player of the Week awards in the same season.“Samantha always brings this silent intensity to our team,” junior middle blocker Elise Ruddins said. “She’s not super loud, but when she gets a kill it is … deadly.”Head coach Mick Haley also appreciated Bricio’s spectacular form, and he praised her versatility and ability to score points both serving and blocking. At the same time, however, Haley stressed that other members of the squad will have to rise to the occasion when needed.“There will come a time when Samantha will not be able to do that on a certain night,” he said. “Everybody else is going to have to step up.”Bricio’s form has helped get USC off to a hot start, but Haley emphasized the need to keep improving as the season goes on.“We’re trying to add pieces to our system and get players ready to come in, relieve other people and play multiple positions,” he said. “It’s constantly a work in progress, but the fact that we’ve been able to do this and be successful so far … has certainly been a boost to the confidence of the players.”Ruddins agreed with her coach and was adamant that the team would not get caught up in its own success.“Something that we always take pride in is just going on to the next game,” she said. “We always look for what we can improve on and focus one game at a time.”The Women of Troy open the Oklahoma Invitational with a game against the hosts. The Sooners stuttered out of the gates, beginning the season 0-3, but have since turned things around. They are 5-1 in their last six and ride a three-game winning streak into their clash with USC.USC will then face Maryland on Friday. The Terrapins have also enjoyed a good start to their season, as they enter the tournament with a 10-1 record. Their lone loss came against George Washington last weekend.The Oklahoma Invitational is the final fixture on USC’s schedule before the start of Pac-12 play. Haley wants to make sure that his team seizes this final opportunity to kick into midseason form.“We’re travelling, we’re playing back-to-back [days] against … real quality opponents,” he said. “So we’re just trying to go through how it will be following week when we open with UCLA and Stanford on the road.”The Women of Troy will open the tournament in Norman on Thursday at 6 p.m. against Oklahoma before taking on Maryland on Friday at 2:30 p.m.