Jacks wave goodbye to seniors

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

Four years ago, four freshmen stepped foot onto the SDSU campus and became part of the women’s basketball team.

Little did they know, they would make history a mere four years later.

The Jacks are saying goodbye to four members of their basketball team. Jennifer Warkenthien, Stacie Oistad, Ashlea Muckenhirn and Morgan Meier all played their final minutes as Jackrabbits in a 60-58 loss to Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

What started out as a dream four years ago became reality when the Jacks won the Summit League Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The dream became even sweeter when the Jacks were able to beat Texas Christian and advance to the second round of the tournament.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of the first team to go to the NCAA tournament and to get our first win there,” Oistad said. “I was recruited with the knowledge that my only year of eligibility would be my senior year, and honestly, as an incoming freshman, playing in the NCAAs was only a dream that I wasn’t sure would ever come true. I am so proud to be part of this class of seniors.”

The four have accomplished a lot in their time in Brookings. They ended their collegiate careers with a record of 99-25, participated in the WNIT two times, including advancing to the semi-finals in their first try, won the Summit League Conference Tournament, advanced to the NCAA Tournament in their first try and helped tie a NCAA Tournament record with 16 3-pointers in the opening round win over TCU.

“[My favorite moment was] coming back after being down by 14 and eventually beating Oakland in the conference championship game,” Muckenhirn said. “The moment the horn sounded, it was a feeling of bliss. It was one of the proudest times of my life, watching the 14 of us celebrate a season of trial and triumph, failures and success.

“It’s a moment you watch on TV when you are little and think, ‘Man, they are big time; I want to be like them some day.’ Well, some little girls were watching SDSU and said, ‘Man, SDSU is big time; I want to be the next Jill Young.'”

The final game for the four seniors was a heartbreaker. The Jacks led for most of the game against Baylor. The Bears did not take their first lead until three minutes were left, but Baylor’s Kelli Griffin hit a shot with half-a-second left to give Baylor the win and end the careers of the Jacks’ four seniors.

“I was in shock that it was over,” Oistad said. “When we were shaking hands and walking off the court, all of the ‘lasts’ came to mind. I will never wear a jersey with STATE on it, I will never warm up with my teammates again, I will never celebrate after a teammate made a 3-pointer, I will never look up in the stands and see my family and friends cheering, I will never travel on an airplane with 20 people wearing blue suits, I will never watch film and scout another team and most significantly, I will never have the opportunity to fight and compete with the best friends I have ever had again.”

Not everything was all glitz and glamour for the four. Being a student athlete and having to balance class, practice, studying and relationships was hectic, and some things got lost in the shuffle, Oistad said.

“School is important but so are the people that you are surrounded with,” she said. “I encourage all of my teammates to look past how busy you are and how hard being a student athlete is and remember to cherish the times with each other.”

The whole basketball team became a family with the four seniors at the core of it. And just like every family, memories were made.

“In season ending events, your heart aches for the loss of the game but also the loss of a family,” Muckenhirn said. “My tears were of happiness for how much we had achieved but of sadness for what I have to say goodbye to.”

These four will be remembered for many things in their time at State, including helping lay the groundwork for the incoming recruiting classes. They have also provided a bar that each class will work to raise to new heights, as the program progresses into Division I.

“I am honored to be a part of this team and yet so incredibly excited for the future of women’s basketball at SDSU,” Oistad said. “The future is very bright for this talented group of women.”