Sports Savvy: Why Lansing’s Women are Mad About March
“From here on out, you almost have to play with the ‘win or go home’ mentality every night. We play every day at Michigan State to win championships and March is the month when we can fulfill those objectives.” – Head Coach Suzy Merchant
Every year around this time a new energy signals an end to winter and the beginning of something magical. A time for resurgence, a time for debuts and a time for redemption. For the ironic, juxtaposition of elation and heartbreak. I am a Spartan and in March that really means something. The traditional success of Spartan Basketball in March brings a sense of togetherness to our community and pride in my alma mater.
One gal who knows the feeling is Julie Pagel Dombroski. Julie is a Spartan by trade, working as MSU’s Director of Women’s Basketball Operations. But she is also a Spartan by nature. Julie’s name can be found in the Spartan Basketball record books under many impressive categories. Like so many Spartans before her, after her career as a student athlete Julie found her way back to East Lansing, pulled by the sense of tradition that surrounds Spartan Basketball.
If you ask Julie why college ball in March is different than any other time, you’ll find the athlete in her is ever-present. “If a team was struggling all year to find their identity, they can suddenly get new life in March.” Head Coach Suzy Merchant echos this sentiment, “The ‘February Fight’ leading into tournament play in March is the reason we put all the time in in the offseason.” It’s in March that the struggle becomes less about who is number one and more about who comes “ready to play.” The driving force for teams in the post season is very specific… 4 wins to the Big Ten Championship and 6 wins to the National Championship. It is this very tangible goal, Julie says, that the student athletes in March “get a kick out of playing for.”
So as February ends and March begins, take a moment to engulf yourself in a few traditions that maybe you haven’t appreciated before. Traditions that aren’t ignited by a groundhog or daylight savings time, but rather the sound of sneakers on hard court and heart-pounding buzzer beaters. Traditions that are “about fighting for the Spartan to your right and to your left.” But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some other Lansing women who feel the fever of college basketball in March.
Sophie W., 12, Lansing – “I really like March Madness because I like to see the non-ranked teams make it into the tournament. Also, I enjoy watching Big Ten teams and seeing how far they make it.”
Tammy Walker, 57, Lansing – “I was a senior in college when Magic won! I was watching the game with a group of people in a bar, singing the fight song and sweating ALL of the plays, even to the end, because you just never know!”
Paige Sauer, 35, Lansing – “Winning a National Championship in 2000 with The University of Connecticut was one of the most amazing moments in my basketball career. The moment when all your hard work and dedication pays off and you are celebrating with your teammates, friends, family and fans was something I will never forget! And with MSU having such a great men’s and women’s basketball program, it makes March Madness such a fun and exciting time for us all.”
Tags: March Madness, msu women's basketball, Sports Savvy, suzy merchant