Spotlight on Women's Basketball
It was a dream come true for Sherryta Freeman. After an extraordinary regular season for the 1998-1999 Dartmouth women's basketball team, the Big Green headed to New Brunswick, N.J., to take on Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Going to the Big Dance is quite a thrill for any athlete, but it was extra-special for then-sophomore Freeman. She hails from Hillside, just half an hour from Rutgers.
"The first thing that my mom said was, 'You're coming home!' Freeman said at the time. "All my friends and family planned to be there, including all my high school friends. My brother went to school there, and about half my senior class did."
Of course, basketball games in real life don't always happen like they do in the movies, and heavily-favored Rutgers defeated the 14th-seeded Dartmouth squad, 84-70.
But just playing in the NCAA Tournament, in front of so many people who cared about her, was an incredible experience for Freeman, and one that she'll never forget.
Anyone who follows the Big Green women knows that it was far from the only incredible experience for that team. Dartmouth has quite a storied program, and both the '98-'99 and '99-'00 teams seemed touched by destiny.
The '98-'99 squad finished a wild regular season tied for first in the league with Princeton, but beat the Tigers in a playoff to get an automatic NCAA bid and the game against Rutgers. The '99-'00 team blew through the Ivy League with a 12-2 record, and came within a hair of knocking off defending national champion Purdue in the first round of the Big Dance, falling, 70-66.
This year has been a little different for Dartmouth. Though picked to finish second in the league, the Big Green has struggled to find consistency, with the team's current record standing at 7-13 overall and 3-4 in the Ivy League.
"Working hard doesn't always turn into victories," says Freeman, now a senior and one of the tri-captains. "Even though we're a hardworking team, our chemistry just hasn't been there all the time. I think we are coming together more and more every day. But we are learning how to withstand the bumps in the road and keep going."
And things are definitely looking up for Dartmouth. After a 1-11 start, the Big Green won four in a row before falling to Columbia on February 2. Dartmouth bounced back the next night by beating Cornell. There is certainly hope for this team.
Freeman has played a large role for her squad this year. Always a terrific scorer - she scored 2,056 points for Hillside High School, the most by any female player - she's added a great deal of maturity to her game this year.
"As a captain, I definitely had to become more of a leader this year," she says. "I had to step up my defensive intensity and also be a threat on the offensive end as well. The coaches look to me to spark the team defensively and to get us going on the other end."
The shooting guard is currently averaging 9.5 points per game, good enough for second on the team. She's also second in assists, averaging 1.9, and has 18 steals for the year.
Dartmouth is happy with those numbers, and Freeman's definitely happy with Dartmouth. Though she was recruited by many other schools, including Harvard, Lehigh and Manhattan, the Big Green won her heart.
"It definitely was a tough decision," Freeman says. "I wanted to attend a prestigious academic institution, and play on a top basketball team as well. I thought Dartmouth was a perfect fit."
And, as she's found out over her four years here, she was right.
"I've had the opportunity to meet people that I don't think I would have met if we weren't on the same team. There is a camaraderie that comes with spending so much time together. And that's the part that I enjoy the most."
A dream come true, indeed. (Jarratt Clarke '01)
Sherryta Freeman's recruiting trip to Dartmouth was made possible by the generosity of George (Yank) Price '35 and the late Karl R. Musser '44 through the Athletic Sponsor Program.