Heading into the 46th minute of the show and bottom half of the final bracket, the Lady Lions had not heard their names called by the folks at ESPN. Then, finally, they had their moment.
I was ready to throw something at the TV screen but I realized it wouldn't reach Bristol, said head coach Coquese Washington, who earned her first trip to the NCAA Tournament since taking over at Penn State in April 2007. Once your nerves settle down, though, and you see the region we're in (Philadelphia) and where we're seeded, I feel like we can make some noise.
Despite the long wait players and coaches were extremely happy to find out their path to the Final Four will not take them outside of the team's home state. The Lady Lions will face Dayton -- a team they defeated 112-107 (2 OT) in their season-opening game -- in the opening round at 11:10 a.m. Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center. If it wins, Penn State will face the winner of the DePaul (3)-Navy (14) matchup Monday in University Park.
From there the Lady Lions would travel to Philadelphia for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, where they could potentially face the No. 1-ranked Connecticut Huskies with a spot in the Final Four at stake.
Before the Lady Lions can dream of a showdown with the nation's top team, though, they must defeat a Dayton squad that nearly beat them in early November.
Dayton is a very good team so we can't overlook anyone, freshman guard Maggie Lucas said. They have a lot of good players and run a lot of offense with back screens. We didn't defend like we should've the first time so we have to be really focused and follow a really good game plan that we know Coquese will set up for us.
Before Washington starts devising a strategy for Saturday's opening round game, she promised she would take time to appreciate what her team has accomplished.
I'm really happy and excited for our kids because to get back into the tournament so they can have this experience, said Washington as she wiped tears from her eyes, playfully telling reporters the waterworks were from allergies. Playing in the NCAA Tournament is one of the best college athletic experiences you could have and that's what we'll have starting Saturday.