I remember arriving at the United Spirit Arena Saturday to a sunny day and it was fitting. It reflected the positive vibes I had about the upcoming Lady Raider NCAA tournament game to tip off a few hours later.
Unfortunately the weather outside AFTER game also was fitting.
It was cold, it was windy, and I could feel the south plains dust smacking against me as I walked to the car. It didn't feel good. But it felt better than it did inside, where the Lady Raiders just lost to South Florida by a single point, abruptly ending their season, and the spectacular careers of five seniors.
Now that Saturday's dust has settled (literally and figuratively), some things to keep things in mind as we look at the big picture of this team and this season that came to a frustrating end over the weekend.
It shouldn't be forgotten that this team was adjusting to adversity even as the balls were being rolled out for the first practices.
There was freshman Ivonne Cook-Taylor tearing her ACL- and done for the season before there was one. Then, it was the Schneider sister's turn to see the doctor. Junior Haley had thyroid surgery, Kellyn had heart surgery. All this, keep in mind, and the calendar still hadn't hit November.
It still hadn't when the strangest medical occurrence hit of all, and one I believe impacted the Lady Raiders more than what most people realize. It was the discovery that junior post Shauntal Nobles was stricken with the rare Guillen-Barre syndrome affecting her immune system, and that affected her stamina (some days more than others), and a player expected to be a major contributor at a position they badly needed production from never played a second at 100 percent.
There were times where she was close, but never turned the corner. I don't know that this was coincidence or not, but Nobles missed the final four games of the season, and Tech lost them all.
There's more. Freshman guard Minta Spears tearing her acl at the very end of the season opening game. Understand, it wasn't just Spears absence in and of itself that this team had to overcome. It affected a large part of the master plan the coaching staff had in mind.
It meant sophomore Amber Battle had to move to back up point guard - not where she has the best chance to excel. Her playing the point also caused a chain reaction of other players moving to places they weren't intended to be in the beginning.
I remember team trainer Larry Munger telling me he had already dealt with more health issues BEFORE this season than he had ALL of the previous season.
Coach Curry had said from the beginning she hadn't seen anything like it in all her years as a coach. We all know injuries happen. But with this team it wasn't just injuries, it was the illnesses, the heart surgery, and one player so weak she could barely walk at times.
Now was any of this to excuse Saturday's loss - or any of the last four? No. A few more shots fall in their final two games and the Lady Raiders aren't a one and done in either post-season tourney.
But all this came to mind as I started looking beyond the disappointment I felt from Saturday, and going back to the first practices in October. There was immediate juggling of the bench rotation, asking players to play positions they weren't intended to, and in Nobles case the constant wondering from day to day if she had energy to play or practice at or close to full strength.
Through it all, this team still managed 21 wins and 11 in conference - both numbers being the most during the Curry era.
I understand these factors may not take away the disappointment of the season ending how it did in losing four straight. And maybe they shouldn't - I honestly don't know.
But I do know this team had a lot thrown at it and it mostly met those challenges head-on. It's just unfortunate that in Saturday's challenge they came up just short.