Apr 022003
 
Authors: Reed Saunders

Much like Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” this season for the CSU women’s basketball team could be considered both the best and worst of times.

After starting the season 5-1, the Rams hit the road and hit the skids, dropping six of their next 10 games. Turmoil wasn’t felt only on the court, as star point guard Elizabeth English was kicked off the team in mid

January for “philosophical differences” she had with the coaching staff.

English’s departure wasn’t the cure, however, as the Rams slid further into mediocrity – something Ram fans and players alike weren’t used to seeing. At the halfway point of conference play, the Rams were hurting at 11-10.

First-year coach Chris Denker’s squad came under fire for not delivering the wins of years past and Denker’s staff definitely felt the turbulence. Through it all, though, Denker said it was his five seniors that helped him and the Rams weather the storm.

“As coaches, this was a really up and down year and crazy at times, and yet it was those kids that always kept us going,” Denker said. “We love them to death and appreciate everything they did all year.”

What those seniors and the rest of the Rams did for the rest of the year was resurrect a sinking ship. CSU won six of its final seven regular season games, bringing new life to once-dormant NCAA Tournament talks.

Though their omission from the NCAA Tournament draw was disappointing to say the least, the Rams played like a team on a mission in the WNIT.

“The goal is always to get to the NCAAs. We didn’t make it and it says a lot about this group of seniors and this team as a whole how we responded in the WNIT,” senior center Shannon Strecker said. “We could have hung our heads, felt sorry for ourselves, but we came to play and had a great end to our season.”

The Rams’ resurrection of a season that stood on the cliff of calamity merely a month earlier was the perfect elixir for CSU’s seniors, who left an unforgettable mark on the Ram program.

Ashley Augspurger, a four-year starter, finished her career fifth all-time on the CSU scoring charts with 1,477 points. She was a first-team All-Mountain West selection and led the Rams in scoring.

Shannon Strecker took her game to a new level this season and thrived under Denker’s system, posting career-best averages in points and rebounds.

Katie Borton and Jackie Campbell, who used to set shots from the corner, saw their roles expanded and their play improve seemingly every game.

Injured center Lisa Narkiewicz showed perhaps the best attitude of any Ram, taking on more of a mentor role to the younger Rams and accompanying the team to practices and games in spite of a torn ACL.

When it’s all said and done, this group will go down as one of the best CSU women’s basketball has ever graduated.

“Looking back on it all, it’s just been unbelievable memories with unbelievable friends,” Borton said. “I’m just proud of our team. I have been every season, but this year, the way we battled back after so many ups and downs, was so great to be a part of.”

Augspurger said her true feelings probably won’t surface for another couple of weeks.

“I’ll be fine until the team starts working out again for next season,” Augspurger said. “It hurts more knowing that these are girls I’ve spent basically every day with for the past two, three and four years, and that’s over.”

For Denker, whose transition year at CSU will now ultimately be remembered for his team’s thrilling run to the WNIT semifinals, his experience with the Ram seniors has been perhaps the best part of an unforgettable journey.

“They’re a great group and a group I’ll always remember,” Denker said. “We’ll always have them as a part of the program and it’s very important they remain a part. They’ve told me how much they enjoyed the season and I really appreciate that.”

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