Thursday, December 3, 2009

Whitten has NCAA experience

Brittney Whitten and Brooke Schumacher were sitting at a table in the back room at Jefferson's Sunday preparing to be interviewed after the JSU volleyball team had just finished watching the NCAA Tournament selection show.

Whitten is the only player on the roster with previous NCAA Tournament experience and Schumacher was asked if the Gamecocks would be relying on that insight this weekend in Tallahassee.

"Oh, thanks for more pressure, Al," Whitten said without looking up from filling in her NCAA bracket.

She was kidding, of course, but truth is the players will look to the All-OVC outside hitter for the leadership she regularly supplies.

"Brittney always has a lot to say and we always really listen to her and take it in because she's the oldest and has been here the longest and through it all," Schumacher said.

JSU coach Rick Nold knows the importance of having a player who's been through it.

"For us, it's not much different in terms of how we travel and the schedule than some of our preseason tournaments," Nold said. "But to have someone who has gone through it, she's there to answer the little questions that go with it."

Whitten said the idea she wants to impart on her teammates is the court they'll be playing on in Tully Gym is no different than the ones they've played their 33 previous matches on this season.

"Remember in 'Hoosiers' when they got to the gym and dropped the measuring tape, that's kind of what I would like to evoke in them," Whitten said. "Yes, the game has more gravity, but there's no more expected this weekend than what has been expected of us all season."

Whitten was a freshman on the 2006 team that blew through the Ohio Valley Conference and lost to San Diego in the NCAA first round at Tennessee.

"It was a little bit surreal," she recalled. "We blew through the conference and the conference tournament and the first time we were really challenged was in the NCAA Tournament.

"This year it's completely different. It means more on a personal level, but I think it means more to this team, too, because we really feel like we've gone out there and earned and then proven (winning the OVC Tournament was not a fluke). This is another step to proving the type of team we are."

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