Seniors honored at women's basketball banquet

A season and an era for the Vanderbilt women's basketball came to an end Wednesday night at the Women's Basketball Banquet, as fans and staff bid farewell to seniors <STRONG>Zuzi Klimesova</STRONG>, <STRONG>Jillian Danker</STRONG> and <STRONG>Candice Storey</STRONG>.

Always an emotional occasion, this year's banquet was extraordinary because of the recent departure of former head coach Jim Foster, who accepted the head coaching position at Ohio State over the weekend.

Foster did not attend the banquet, but associate head coach Pete Gaudet and assistant coaches Kelly Meury and Chavonne Hammond, as well as the rest of the basketball staff, were on hand. The coaches were introduced and acknowledged, but did not actively participate in the program. Instead, Charlie Mattos, the radio voice of the women's basketball team, shared the duties of emcee with sixth-year senior Candice Storey.

The evening was a blend of tears, applause, and laughter. The highlight film was a microcosm of the night. Out-takes of Candice Storey's videotaped invitation to fans to come to the Auburn game brought the house down with laughter, while the tributes to the seniors brought out tissues and hankies by the dozens. In between were many memorable scenes, including the breath-taking offensive execution that has been the hallmark of the team for the past two seasons, and some unforgettable footage from the lockerroom celebration following the SEC championship.

Following tradition, each of the seniors gave a speech. Jillian Danker took the most structured approach, giving an often humorous top 10, thanking people for what she'd learned at Vandy. Zuzi Klimesova gave an emotional extemporaneous speech from the heart, and Candice Storey naturally turned to humor.

Storey then assumed responsibility for handing out the awards, with the assistance of Erin O'Brien, basketball administrator. The first award was the Bedford Hunter Loyalty Award is given to sophomore guard/forward Hillary Hager. During her freshman year, Hager averaged 20 minutes per game. This year, with the influx of several talented freshman, her minutes dropped significantly. But her attitude, unselfishness and work ethic remained constant, making her the perfect recipient for the award.

The Chloe Stroop Spirit award, given to the player who most exemplifies spirit and enthusiasm through the long season, was awarded fo sophomore forward Jenni Benningfield. For anyone who watched the team through the course of the season, there's no need to explain why Benningfield got this award. Whether on the court or on the bench, her emotion and fire are plainly visible for all to see.

For the second year in a row, Ashley McElhiney was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player. By the end of the season, the Commodores had become known as a stellar defensive team, and McElhiney was a key element of that success. Besides carrying primary responsibilities for directing the defense, in most games, McElhiney played man-to-man on one of the opponents' biggest scoring threats for a large part of the game.

The Most Improved Player went to a player who may be unfamiliar to many fans. Freshman guard Jill Corbett averaged less than five minutes a game this season. But her work ethic and competitive drive on the practice court won her the respect of her teammates, and by the end of the season, her improvement was so notable that she was chosen for this award.

For the past two seasons, Chantelle Anderson has shared Most Valuable Players honors, last year with Ashley McElhiney and the year before with Chavonne Hammond. This year she was sole recipient. She led the Commodores in scoring with 20.7 ppg and was second in rebounding with 6.8 rebounds per game. Her post-season honors include SEC Player of the Year, Kodak All-American, AP All-American, NCAA Midwest NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player, and ESPN the Magazine's Center of the Year.

Finally, Candice Storey was awarded The Commodore Award. This award was created last year to honor Zuzi Klimesova's unique contributions to the team across a variety of dimensions. This year, Storey returned for a sixth season, following a rare second medical redshirt season in 2000-2001. Her combination of understanding, humor, common sense and compassion added immeasurably to the team's success. Top Stories