"It's like being invited to a fabulous dinner and you get to sit down and you smell it and it's right in front of you and you can feel the heat coming off it, and nobody lets you eat; that's what going to the Final Four and not winning is like," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "Someone asked our players earlier, one more game, right? In my math, I think we got to win two. You know, so let's win that first one and play for a championship and then finish it off, so that's what left."
A lofty goal for a team that's losing key pieces like forward Amanda Thompson and center Abi Olajuwon, but the Sooners are bringing in six talented newcomers to blend in with experienced players like point guard Danielle Robinson and forward Carlee Roethlisberger
"I really like my young guys, been on the floor with them just a little bit," Coale said. "[It's] six new faces, which is a lot. But I like them. I have enjoyed teaching them. I love our leadership [with] great seniors and seasoned veterans to go with those new guys, so the teaching should move along at a good pace and just enjoying where we are right now."
Exactly where they are is moving along in the preseason with a team that has talented youth but savvy older leaders that are still grounded after making two straight Final Four appearances.
"Definitely, I mean, you know, it's been an honor to go to back-to-back Final Fours," Robinson said. "A lot of people don't even get to, you know, experience one, but in order to have two with two completely different journeys has been awesome. And, you know, it's another new team but still the same goal of working hard every day to prepare for every game we have to play."
Roethlisberger echoed those comments.
"I think that's exactly, you know, what you just said, doing what we've, you know, done before," Roethlisberger said. "We've been fortunate to make it to back-to-back Final Fours, so I feel like we kind of know what it takes."
Now, it's time for the Sooners to begin their journey towards No. 1.
And if they're to do so, they'll have to come together as a group quickly along the way.
"I mean, when anytime you bring six new people onto a team, it's always a challenge," Roethlisberger said. "But they've been quick learners, and so it's more exciting as opposed to kind of scary, and then knowing that you've been there before means you know what it's like and you can definitely get there again. It's realistic. But we've been there and we have one more game to get once we get there."
OU will begin play with an exhibition game at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 against Oklahoma Christian at home, and the season opener is at 1 p.m. Nov. 13 at Milwaukee.