The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 30, 2009

Mankato toasts MSU women's title

Minnesota State returns home to celebrate with fans

By Chad Courrier

MANKATO — When Joanne Noreen chose Minnesota State to continue her basketball career, she could have never imagined this last week.

Regional championship, trip to San Antonio, playing on national television and cutting down the nets for a Division II title.

“Four years ago, I couldn’t have dreamed about winning a national championship,” the Mavericks senior said. “The program wasn’t great, but I’m so glad I chose to come here and make history with the rest of these girls.”

The Mavericks celebrated their first national championship with about 1,200 fans Monday night at Bresnan Arena. There were many featured guests, including President Richard Davenport and alum Glen Taylor, who offered congratulations. There were videos and trophies and city proclamations and several standing ovations ... and tears of joy.

“How ’bout them Mavericks” was the cheer of choice, and championship rings will soon be worn by the players to signify their accomplishments.

“To finally get to celebrate with everybody is a phenomenal feeling,” senior Heather Johnson said. “Words can’t express what I’m feeling.”

The team has been celebrating since Friday night’s 103-94 victory over Franklin Pierce in the nationally televised championship game. The team received more than 600 supportive e-mails during the Texas trip, and the charter flight home was greeted by fans at the Mankato airport.

“I think I’ll remember the team celebrating,” senior Alex Andrews said. “The games will always be in our minds, but this team came together for one goal. It’s still hard to believe it actually happened.”

Coach Pam Gohl and the team presented the championship trophy to Davenport, who attended the final game. Gohl said that the interest in the program has taken an amazing leap in the last month as her e-mail inbox has been flooded with messages.

“Everybody dreams of winning a national championship, but you don’t know if you’ll ever win one,” Gohl said. “I didn’t know what to say (to the crowd), you can’t put all your feelings into three minutes. This was a special group, with great senior leadership and incredible basketball ability. It was all those things wrapped into one.”

Johnson said that Monday’s crowd was the perfect cap to the season, and even though it took well-wishers more than an hour to filter by, signing autographs or taking pictures was a lot of fun.

“There’s been so much great support,” she said. “Especially all the little kids. I was one of those kids once, and to see their eyes light up, that was special.”