Sophia Young's NCAA Tournament Memories

The year 2005 was the year of the bear, that’s what they called it. There was a lot of stuff going on with Baylor and we needed to be the light. We were also called Waco’s favorite ladies or something in that sense. The NCAA Tournament altogether was just an amazing experience. We were a two seed going in, going up against Minnesota and North Carolina in our regional. Janel McCarville was playing for Minnesota and I remember during that tournament she set a screen on some girl at half court and it just laid her out. Preparing to go up against her was something we always had in the back of our minds. The game was just really physical. After that we had North Carolina, who was a top seed and had some really good players. We came into that game humble; we had never been in that position before playing in the Elite Eight. We took the humble route, went out and showed what we could do. I think we pretty much led UNC the entire game. They were talking trash to us but we didn’t have a lot of players that talked trash, we just walked away with the victory.

The Final Four against LSU – LSU had beaten us in the season opener at the State Farm Classic. We were down like 16 or 19 in that game and we came back and lost by one point, craziest thing ever. We knew that if we got LSU again we wouldn’t let that happen. In that game LSU got up on us early, like 15 or 16, but we came back by halftime to tie the game. Then throughout the second half, Sylvia Fowles was killing us but we battled back and we won. Our team played extremely well throughout the second half, we were motivated knowing we were in the same position with LSU before. Second to last game of the season, we might as well just lay it all out there.

Against Michigan State, our mentality going into the championship game was that it was the last possible game of the season; why not just lay it all out there. We had nothing to lose, we already had a superb season so we were just going out there and putting everything we had on the floor. We were going to go home either way, so we might as well just take the trophy with us, that was our mentality. Everyone was already sitting at home watching us and we were going to leave it all out there. We came out with that, we had all our role players step up, everybody contributed, everyone did their part. No one tried to do more than what they were capable of and that is why I think we won, we had a lot of great role players who just did their part. No one criticized anyone or tried to take the spotlight. That is what our whole run was about, just everyone doing what they did with no one trying to be anything more.

Looking back and watching that whole thing, I was just blown away by how stuff happened. The whole year there were so many great players on all these other teams. You had Cappie Pondexter on Rutgers and they played Tennessee and lost to Tennessee. Then Tennessee played Michigan State and lost to Michigan State in the last minute, I think they had been up by 16 or something and ended up losing. Everything just worked out. I think it was just by the grace of God that we got to where we were, it was just crazy. The Final Four run put Baylor on the map and was definitely a light that Baylor needed at the time. Our year was just tremendous, I’m definitely privileged and blessed to be one of the people that was able to experience winning a national championship. In college you only have four years to win a championship and not everyone gets to. That is what is great about college, you only have four years to do it, as a professional you can be there for 10 years and switch players. In college you just have to go with what you’ve got. Those were definitely my favorite girls to play with in the year of the bears. I was texting them all last night and told them I missed playing with them. That bond that we had for four years was just great. It is something we will never forget; we can always talk about it and will always be talking about it. Because we set the stage now we have a Baylor team that is 38-0 with two more games left trying to go 40-0. I’m glad to be a part of that team that set the stage for Baylor and helped put Baylor on the map to be the No. 1 team in the country right now, going to a Final Four with the opportunity to win another championship. Making it to the Final Four is definitely one of the most amazing experiences in the world as a basketball player, it is something you’ll never forget and no one can take it away from you.