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Lehigh Women's Basketball Ready to Shock the World?

Being a part of the NCAA tournament isn't just a fun trip to New York City and a "thank you for showing up, nice to be here" for the Lehigh women's basketball team.

But it is a whirlwind of national media attention for the Lady Hawks - and for reasons off the court as well as on.

Earlier in the week, Lehigh was recognized as one of 14 teams in the 64-team women's field that have a perfect 100% graduation rate. In the media day, head coach Sue Troyan expanded on that:

“From my perspective, it’s why I do what I do. Being at Lehigh, the type of kids that we get there are truly exceptional in terms of having to balance the things in their lives and truly representing what it means to be a student athlete. This group epitomizes being able to excel academically and athletically. Their team GPA was 3.32, they’ve been ranked in the top 25 in team GPA in six of the last seven years. Our team GPA has been between a 3.25 and a 3.45 every semester, so it’s not a blip on the map; it’s not a one time thing. It’s year in and year out. These kids are kids who excel academically at the same time we have exceptional kids, exceptional students and kids who value the experience."

There was one other trip to the NCAA's for the Lehigh Lady Hawks - in 1997, where Lehigh as a 16 seed was mauled by UConn 130-35 - and that wasn't even a year where they won the national championship. (Lehigh's game notes go into those - including a copy of the stat sheet of the game.)

I got an email from a friend of mine this week, who recalled our trip to Gampel Pavillion for that first-round game. We drove across the state to witness what we knew would be a certain loss. But Lehigh did hold a lead during that game, actually - a Kari Herzog 3-pointer to make the score 5-4. Briefly.

Knowing that the chance of Lehigh having the lead again was remote, I just let out a huge whoop that got the Lehigh section (in the upper deck of the 10,000 strong arena) riled up for about a minute - one of my best basketball memories as a fan.

Howard and I had some great memories from that game - hypothesizing that if Lehigh just went on a 30 point run, they would be "right back in this thing". Hearing a fellow Lehigh fan watch UConn miss a free-throw, and then hearing him scream: "O-ver-ra-ted!"

That will most decidedly not be the case tomorrow at noon. It was a different world then - Lehigh didn't have scholarships to give for women's basketball, while UConn was, well, UConn.
These Lady Hawks are different, and head coach Sue Troyan agrees. "Going back six or seven years ago, the athleticism in the Patriot League, it’s been a difference of night and day. Competitively we are a much stronger program," she said.

Graham Hays of ESPN and Andre Williams of the Morning Call had a different tack: they talked about Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan's interesting family life as a D-I basketball coach with three young kids, and having not only a two-income family, but a successful two-coaching family (husband Fran is Lehigh's softball coach, and a huge success in his own right).

There's more stories out there. The three Lehigh players (senior F Haly Crites, junior G Kristen Dalton, and freshman G Kayla Blake) who are from New Jersey and will be playing not far from home. The "Dare to Be Great" T-shirts brought out for practice this week - the preseason message for the Lady Hawks. The "Bucket List". David vs. Goliath. Shocking the world.

But "We Are Family", four Lady Hawks on the Dean's list, or sophomore G Erica Prosser and senior G Claire Sullivan saving the world after graduation (according to this great ESPN article by Graham Hays), won't make the task on Saturday any easier. It's going to be a huge challenge.


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