The Whitman College women’s basketball team had an incredible season. The Missionaries played for the Division III national championship.
Whitman, going into Saturday’s championship contest in Stevens Point, Wis., with an impressive 31-1 record, ran into an undefeated team that played well. Fairleigh Dickinson University was strong enough to overcome Whitman’s lead in the second half to win the contest, 80-72.
The Whitman players and coaches are certainly disappointed. Their competitive nature drove them to win the conference championship, the playoffs and, ultimately, a ticket to the Final Four. It’s going to sting a bit.
But look at how far the team and Whitman have come. Not that many years ago Whitman College’s athletic programs were, generally, not of championship caliber. Some years winning more games than were lost would have been considered a triumph.
Whitman has put more emphasis on sports in recent years, and it shows. It’s been done without diminishing the school’s high academic standards.
Since DIII schools cannot give athletic scholarships and Whitman has not lowered its admission standards, the basketball coaches — and every other coach — had to be excellent recruiters.
The players on the basketball team have the talent and grit necessary to be champions.
“We just talked about it in the locker room how we need to not hang our heads about this loss,” junior guard Heather Johns said after the game Saturday night. “We made history at Whitman and ... I think we need to be proud of ourselves and what we’ve done.”
Coach Michelle Ferenz and the Whitman women had an amazing journey. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that counts. Memories of this journey will last a lifetime for many.
The Walla Walla community, as well as the Whitman community, are proud of what the basketball team accomplished.