Sooners end year of frustration against top teams
To Sherri Coale, it seemed like she was watching the same game
over and over again.
After making it to two straight Final Fours, her Oklahoma squad
this year couldn’t reproduce the same kind of signature wins.
The Sooners lost all eight of their games this season against
teams ranked in the top 10 and went 23-4 against everyone else.
They made it to the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 with an upset of
No. 11 Miami in the second round, but faltered against eventual
Final Four participant Notre Dame.
”I think the most frustrating thing for me is that we had that
game in our gun chamber all year. That game, I’m not talking about
the good one, I’m talking about the bad one,” Coale said
Wednesday. ”The one we played against Notre Dame, the same game we
played against Connecticut, the same game we played (against
Baylor) in Waco earlier this year.
”We had that game where we lost confidence, where we froze,
where we ‘halfway-ed’ everything that we did.”
Coale called the big-game struggles a reflection of the Sooners’
youth and a struggle to find chemistry through lineup changes and
injuries. Co-captain Whitney Hand returned at midseason after
missing a year because of knee surgeries, and the Oklahoma later
shuffled freshman Nicole Griffin into the starting lineup at center
in place of sophomore Joanna McFarland.
In the final three weeks of the season, Coale said the absence
of reserve Lyndsey Cloman because of a back injury also had an
”We just kind of had those things that plagued us along the way
that can affect consistency,” Coale said.
From this year’s squad, the Sooners will lose second-team
All-American Danielle Robinson at point guard, starting power
forward Carlee Roethlisberger and reserve guard Lauren Willis.
Coale credited the group with being diligent workers who created
the strong practice habits that allowed the back-to-back Final Four
trips to happen.
Robinson also developed – even to Coale’s surprise – over the
course of her career into one of the game’s most dynamic players.
She’s one of only four players to surpass 2,000 points, 700 assists
and 300 steals in her career.
”Until you don’t have a kid whose hands you can put the ball in
at the end of a game and say, `Go make a play,’ I don’t know that
you can really value that as much. I’ve had that and I’m going to
miss it desperately,” Coale said.
”We’ll find another person to run the point and we’ll find
another way to be very, very effective.”
Coale’s group will grow even younger next season. Backup guard
Jasmine Hartman will be the only fourth-year senior, and Coale is
leaning on Hand to continue in the leadership role she’s held even
while missing so much time.
Among the key tasks before next season is to regain that
”resolve” that the Sooners were able to show during key moments
in their previous two seasons.
”At the end of the day, always as coaches what we want is for
our kids to perform at the top end of their potential every
night,” Coale said, ”and we maybe went over the top a time or
two, but we weren’t able to do that every night.”