Aztec women ready to shine on the court for their first WNIT appearance in 10 years
San Diego State's Viejas arena looked very grand even during practice Thursday, because under the lights, some pretty spectacular women graced the court.
The women have done what no other Aztec women’s basketball team has done in 10 years: They made it to the postseason, advancing to the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). And they're hosting the first game right in their own hometown.
Mercedes Staples, the Aztecs' senior guard, said it well. "I think these are moments you live for."
They’ve been living for this moment and it will all come together on Friday at 6:00 p.m. against UC Irvine.
"It's kind of full circle for me," said her teammate Sophia Ramos. She's also been waiting for this moment for a long time, but for her it's bittersweet.
"This game is a little bit more special, I think, just because it's my last year. It's my first time in postseason play for myself here and I get to do it in San Diego one more time," Ramos said. "And what's become home for me these last five years. So I think it just hits a little bit more emotional than anything else."
Ramos said she almost didn't play this year, but gave it one last shot — and magic happened. And what will make it even more special is that her family will be in the stands from Texas.
And Abby Prohaska, a shooting guard, said that reaching this goal during Women’s History Month makes it even sweeter.
"Being a D1 college female athlete alone kind of holds a lot of weight. Just making it here and being able to do this during Women’s History Month is something that I think doesn't go unnoticed," she said. "It's important for us to really shine light on our ability to come out and compete just like men."
Stacie Terry-Hutson is the head coach leading this group of athletes who have persevered, making it one step closer to their goal. "Our mantra this year was all we need and we knew that all we needed to be successful was in our locker room," she said.
She said she would love to see big support for the team in the stands for the group of young women who have worked hard on the court. "If you've been to a men's game you will see when it's rocking in here, when it's packed, our young ladies have worked equally as hard as our men's program," Terry-Hutson said. "They put a lot of blood sweat and tears into this, and it would be a great home court advantage if we can get this thing full."
Terry-Hutson said it will be a dream come true to watch the team she coaches play on her home court, in the city where she was born and raised. She said it took the support of a lot of people to get her here and support is something women must give each other to win in life.
"I’ve been so very lucky to have so many people to help along the way, and I think as women that is our job — to help other women to get to where they want to go," she said. "If we can continue to uplift and shine light on women as opposed to judging or pushing them down, I think that's how we rise, we do it together."