Husky seniors bid farewell

Five Husky seniors suited up at Hec Edmundson Pavilion for the final time Saturday afternoon, enjoying a victorious season finale over the lowly Washington State Cougars. The win completed a flawless 15-0 season at home, and gave the UW seniors the perfect end to their careers in Seattle.

It wasn't an easy day for those five, each knowing it would be the last time they could play in front of some of the best fans in the Pacific-10 Conference.

"I wasn't the first one (to cry) so all you guys were wrong," laughed senior guard Loree Payne, who will leave the UW as its all-time leading three-point shooter. "I don't think it has quite hit me yet. We still know that we will be able to put our uniforms back on. We know we can still go down and play on Saturday (in the Pac-10 Tournament) and we're excited about that. But the last game it will hit me."

One person it did hit Saturday was Kellie Dalan, the senior who has made a name for herself with hard work under the boards and a deadly baseline shot from either side of the basket.

She was the first to let the emotion of the day get the best of her.

"When we were shooting free throws and they started playing 'Hey Baby' as they always do, I started to get a bit misty-eyed," said the fourth-year player from Meadowdale High. "Then, when I saw my dad, that's when I lost it because he started to get a little bit teary. The dams broke and that was it."

Emily Autrey, who flourished in her time as a Husky as a post player who could shoot the three-ball and run the floor with the best of them, blamed Dalan for getting the tears rolling in her eyes as well.

"I was fine and then Kellie came out balling and she made me cry," said Autrey. "But I held it together pretty well."

Autrey was accompanied before the game at mid-court by two of her most loyal fans, her parents Cheryl and Jim. They have attended nearly every home game in Emily's career, and even made it to some away games. They weren't going to miss this one for the world.

"It was awesome because they've been so supportive of me my whole life," said the athletic forward. "I was glad that they got to come down on the court with me to celebrate."

Cheryl Sorenson and Alicia Heathcote were the other two seniors in the class.

Sorenson, one of two players on the team from the state of Oregon, played 12 minutes and poured in four points in her home finale. Heathcote, a walk-on who transferred from North Seattle Community College prior to last season, went scoreless in four minutes.

Washington coach June Daugherty said going out with a win for the Husky seniors made the game that much more special.

This senior class, afterall, didn't always enjoy success like it has over the past three seasons.

Their freshman year, 1999, was spent mired in mediocrity without the benefit of a true home arena. While Hec Ed was renovated, the Husky women were forced to play their home games at Mercer Arena and Key Arena, and finished just 8-22.

The fact that these young women stuck with the program and were a part of the 180-degree turnaround at the UW is something Daugherty can't overlook when describing her seniors.

"The first year, not having an arena to practice in, to play at Mercer Arena and Key Arena, it was tough to ask of them," said Daugherty. "They knew it coming in that we were going to have a tough road ahead, but we were going to get something out of having a new arena. I would think that they would tell you that it was worth it.

"One of the things that I appreciate the most about that was that they didn't quit. They didn't turn and run. They stayed with it and everyone one of them said they wanted to find a way to make themselves better to turn the program around. And they did it."

Now, with a Husky women's basketball program that led the conference in attendance in 2003, Daugherty feels the seniors have left their mark in more ways than they may even realize.

"To see the crowds that we've had, to lead the conference in attendance in this beautiful arena, and to play the basketball that they've played and been nationally ranked, it's just been a real privilege to have been a part of that with them," said the Husky coach.

"That's one of the legacies that these seniors are going to leave." Top Stories