Duke women get warm reception on return home
DURHAM, N.C. -- One by one, the Duke women's basketball players walked on stage amid rousing cheers from their fans. A couple of band members were there to herald their appearance, as were a handful of cheerleaders.
The Blue Devils returned home without their coveted national title, yet it hardly mattered to about 350 people who showed up.
"It felt good, because I know we still have the support of our fans," guard Monique Currie said Wednesday night. "We have some of the most dedicated fans in the country. At the same time, we're still disappointed. We're just trying to cope with not being able to bring home a championship."
Maryland was the latest team to ruin Duke's hopes of a banner to match the three won by Mike Krzyzewski's men's program. The Terrapins rallied from a 13-point deficit to force overtime and eventually won 78-75 Tuesday night.
It was the fourth trip to the Final Four for the Blue Devils and coach Gail Goestenkors, and their second time in the final.
"The first time I sat up here, at a welcome back party, was in 1999, when we had first gone to the Final Four and we went to the championship game," Coach G reminded the crowd of that 62-45 loss to Purdue. "We lost -- and it was a bad loss, it wasn't close -- but we were elated. We came floating in here.
"This year, we go and we play a remarkable game, and we feel disappointment."
Goestenkors stopped then when her voice choked with emotion, but the message was clear. Second-best is no longer good enough for her or her program, and Currie and fellow senior Jessica Foley reiterated that in their comments from the stage.
"This program is going to get that national championship banner, I guarantee it," Foley said, setting off more boisterous cheering.
The crowd, although enthusiastic, might have been larger if not for other news on campus. Earlier in the day, lacrosse coach Mike Pressler resigned and the school canceled the rest of the season amid a burgeoning scandal involving allegations that three players on the highly ranked team raped a stripper at an off-campus party.
Pressler spent 16 seasons with the Blue Devils and won three Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Last year, his team appeared in the national championship game.
But Currie wasn't disappointed with the size of the crowd, comparing it favorably to previous rallies.
"I thought it was fine," Currie said. "You can always have more, but we're just thankful for the fans that do come out and support us."
The previous 24 hours had been draining for Currie, starting with the heartbreaking loss to Maryland, continuing when she was drafted third overall in the WNBA draft and finishing with the reception at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Currie now is a member of the Charlotte Sting.
"It's been a roller coaster of emotions for me," she said. "I was definitely excited about being drafted, but at the same time, I haven't gotten over the fact that we lost. It's tough to be happy, when you're not really happy."
And she won't forget her final collegiate game any time soon.
"That was a tough loss for us," Currie said. "I felt like we put ourselves in good position to win it all, and it just didn't work out that way. But there are a lot of other things I need to work on and prepare for, so I'm just going to try to do that."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press