Pumped up for Duke vs. UT women

By Matt Hill

   Around August, most of the Elizabethton Star's sportswriters' spirits seem to get a little bit higher.
   Football media days begin rolling in, and some of the writers even go to scrimmages.
   That time of year gets everybody all excited.
   Well, everybody except myself.
   Now don't get me wrong, I like football. I really enjoy high school, college and especially professional football.
   But I don't get overwhelmingly elated in August. Actually, that comes this time of year.
   That's because it is basketball season.
   While most sportswriters prefer the pigskin, I enjoy basketball the most.
   I think part of that has to do with my love for the Duke Blue Devils. I've been a Duke fan since I was practically in diapers, and I'm used to great basketball teams and sorry football squads.
   But I'm excited that another season of Duke basketball is upon us. And this year, it's not just because of the men.
   The Duke women's team is ranked No. 1 in the country, and comes off its second final four appearance in four seasons.
   Duke's No. 1 ranking will be put to the test on Sunday against a team that most people around here consider their favorites, which just happens to be the Tennessee Lady Vols.
   It's safe to say that I will be one of the few people in the Tri-Cities cheering for the Lady Blue Devils this weekend. Even the biggest Duke fans don't really follow the women's team.
   I recently read in the Durham Herald Sun that the Duke women's team averages about 3,000 for home games. Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors complained to the paper about the lack of fan support the team gets.
   When I've watched Duke women's games, I've noticed the student section is not even full. That's a shame, because this has been a final four squad twice recently.
   Tennessee, on the other hand, probably has more fan support for women's games then for men's. Lady Vols tickets are very hard to come by, especially when UConn comes to town.
   Duke has some great players in Alana Beard, Iciss Tillis and Sheena Mosch. They also have a great coach in Goestenkors.
   I remember attending a Duke women's game in the early 1990's, and it's just hard to fathom how far the program has come.
   Still Duke women's basketball is overshadowed by the men's program, but you won't find a better combo anywhere than Mike Krzyzewski and Goestenkors. Too bad Steve Spurrier still isn't around to make it the terrific trio.
   Before you all you Vol fans give this contest to Tennessee, keep in mind the greatest moment in Duke women's basketball history came against the Lady Vols.
   In 1999, Duke pulled off a shocking upset of Tennessee in the NCAA East Regional Finals.
   Duke never got the credit it deserved for that victory. The Lady Devils totally shut down Chamique Holdsclaw, but most Lady Vol fans said she just had a bad night.
   2002's contest in Raleigh this weekend might just have the tables turned. Duke sophomore Monique Curry tore her ACL last week, and will be out for the season.
   Curry averaged 14 points-per-game as a freshman last year.
   Despite the injury, I will still give the Lady Vols the credit they deserve if they beat my beloved Blue Devils.
   I don't think this will be the first time this season Duke and Tennessee will meet each other. My prediction is that with UConn and Oklahoma losing a lot of their key players from last year, the Lady Devils and the Lady Vols will play again for the national championship in Atlanta this spring.
   Hopefully, it will be two Duke victories.