Texas’ seniors could not have drawn up a more dramatic departure.
The veteran trio will play their final game at the Frank Erwin Center on Sunday in what will also be the last Big 12 meeting between the Longhorns and storied rival No. 17 Texas A&M (20-8, 11-6 Big 12). Factor in the must-win nature of the contest and you get one heck of a storyline.
“Obviously there’s a lot riding on this game,” said senior Ashley Gayle. ”There are just so many emotions in a game like this. We’re all very excited. It’s always fun to play A&M, and we beat them last time out so that’s huge for our confidence.”
The Longhorns (17-12, 7-10 Big 12) defeated the Aggies in College Station in early January and will need to come up with another big upset this weekend as they look to boost their NCAA tournament resume before heading to Kansas City for the Big 12 Championships.
Considering the struggles that head coach Gail Goestenkors and her senior class have had against the Aggies, a season sweep would be a great a way to go out.
“The rivalry is pretty intense,” Goestenkors said. “Not just since we’ve been here, but for more than 100 years, these two schools have been battling it out. We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to play in the last ever Big 12 game between us two. It’s going to be a statement game just like it was when our football team beat theirs earlier this year.”
“To finally get a win this year was definitely the high point in the rivalry for me,” Fontenette said. “It had just been so long since we beat them. We’d come close a few times, but to finally get that win under our belts this year was huge for our confidence.”
This year’s senior crop also holds a special place in Longhorn history as they were coach Goestenkors’ first recruiting class. As Goestenkors looked to build upon the team that former head coach and Longhorn legend Jody Conradt had left behind, she made a lasting impression on the trio and was a big part of why they chose Texas.
“Coach Goestenkors’ hire really got the ball rolling for us,” Anderson said. “Obviously the academic staff, the campus, the city of Austin and the fans all had to do with why we chose Texas, but to have the opportunity to play for a coach like Gail [Goestenkors] was just such an honor.”
While there have been several moments over the past four years that have helped these seniors develop the tight-knit relationship they currently enjoy, perhaps the biggest moment came just a couple of weeks ago, before the Baylor game. Just prior to tip-off, Goestenkors sat all three seniors down and talked to them about what they need to do to finish off their careers the right way.
“[Goestenkors] just talked to us about having no regrets,” Fontenette said. “We just want to leave it all on the court. We don’t want to have to look back and feel like we didn’t do enough. Ever since that conversation, we’ve taken it one game at a time and we’ve poured our heart into everything we do on the court.”
Texas has won two of three games since that night, with both wins coming in a convincing fashion. If they can find a way to win one more, these seniors might just create a new favorite memory.
“We’ve done some pretty cool things since I’ve been here,” Gayle said. “Going to the Virgin Islands and our trip to Europe were both a lot of fun, but to sweep A&M on senior night, that would probably be a pretty cool experience.”
Printed on Friday, March 2, 2012 as: Seniors look for victory in team's last trip to A&M