TEMPE — Arizona State’s return to the women’s NCAA Tournament has special meaning for Sophie Brunner, Quinn Dornstauder and Kelsey Moos.
“That is a great legacy for these seniors to have earned four,” coach Charli Turner Thorne said.
The trio has ended each season with a trip to the most elite event of the postseason. Friday the Sun Devils open postseason play against Michigan State in Columbia, South Carolina.
The seniors have given advice to the younger players about dealing with nerves. They also hope to lead by example.
“Have poise and trust in who you are and what you do,” Brunner said.
As a No. 8 seed, ASU had to travel across the country. This is a new challenge for a team that opened its last two NCAA Tournaments on its home court.
“You really can’t get caught up in it,” Turner Thorne said. “At this stage in the game, if you’re any good you have to be able to win in hostile environments.”
The seniors, which include graduate transfer Sara Hattis, are determined not to take their final tournament for granted.
“Having the ‘win or go home’ mentality is definitely huge,” said Moos. “We have to get really, really, hungry, aggressive and then just go out and play every game and possession like it could be our last.”
ASU has struggled with injuries all season, but is healthy heading into the tournament.
“Now more than ever is when the team really has to come together,” Moos said. “The teams that play together the best as a team are the teams that do well in the NCAA Tournament.”
How do the seniors feel about accomplishing the feat of four straight invitations?
“We are blessed to be in the tournament and to have our names called was a good feeling,” forward Brunner said.
Playing on the other side of the country doesn’t seem to concern this tight-knit group.
“This team is really close,” Turner Thorne said. “They really love each other, they really support each other.
“They know that their time together is coming to an end and so I know they are going to work as hard as they possible can to play as long as they can.”
The game is scheduled to tip off at 4:30 p.m. MST Friday on ESPN2.
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