A championship run involves not just that season but a goal that began the season before.
The 2011 Texas A&M women’s national championship team celebrated its historic feat on Sunday, recognized during a home game against Georgia.
They went 33-5, knocking off No. 1 seeds Baylor—who finished ahead of the Aggies to win the Big 12—and Stanford, en route to a 76-70 victory over Notre Dame in the title game.
“We were not a Cinderella. We had a team that came of age—a senior point guard (Sydney Colson) and a senior scoring machine (Danielle Adams). We felt we could play with anybody in the country,” Coach Gary Blair said of his first national title as HC.
It all came together after a disappointing finish the previous season, remembered Sydney Carter, a senior guard. “The Gonzaga game did something to us,” she told reporters, including the MSR. “We had fallen so short of the goals that we had.”
“My lowest moment as a coach,” TAMU Associate HC Kelly Bond-White recalled. “You want to have answers for your players. We thought we were the better team . . .”
Carter, now the team’s video coordinator after several WNBA seasons, said she and her mates came back hungry for bear, committed as ever that summer leading into the 2010-11 season.
“It didn’t just happen, this was a process,” Carter explained. “We took a week or two off and we got back to work. We started in June and July with our strength coach.
“Danielle dedicated herself to lose weight and getting in shape to be able to play 40 minutes. We had a lot of good pieces … It came around that summer.”
Adams, the school’s first WBB All-American and Colson—who is among TAMU’s all-time assists leaders—Carter, and their teammates, put together a memorable run in so many ways, Blair said.
Women’s college hoops at the time had gotten too top-heavy, and the annual NCAAs were “getting very boring to see the same people go to the Final Four,” Blair recalled. “It was time for a change.
“It was good for coaches that were coaching teams similar to us developing talent. [They] might not have all the 5-stars [recruits] but they are developing the 4-stars,” he continued. “It gave hope for the rest of the country that they could be that team.”
Carter said it wasn’t her goal to win a national championship when she came to TAMU. “I knew that we were going to be good. Winning a national championship is not something a lot of people can say, ‘I am going to play my last game of my college career and win a national championship.’ It will be surreal for the rest of my life.”
It was more than winning games, added Bond-White of the 2011 champions, who was later honored at the White House by former President Barack Obama. “It was one of those things that you don’t appreciate in the moment as an assistant [coach] because you are caught up sometimes in the grind of the job.”
As the team was recognized last Sunday, “It became about the journey and … about the moments that led to that,” she said.
Blair, Bond-White, and Carter are daily reminders of that 2011 squad for the current 2020-21 squad—a top-10 team all season—with hopes to replicate this spring.
“They appreciate what’s been done before them,” Carter said. “They want to do the same thing. To this day, it’s hard to talk about everything I experienced that year because it was just that special.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.