By Joseph Staszewski
Bria Smith had a good feeling about this season before it even started.
The Louisville women’s basketball team’s sophomore guard and Christ the King alumna had a preseason premonition. She said she told men’s team star and Archbishop Molloy grad Russ Smith their off-season work would be worth it.
“We worked so hard,” she said. “In the summer I was telling him the summer is going to pay off.”
Smith couldn’t have been more right.
The Cardinals men went on to win in the national championship and the women made an unexpected run to the title game before losing to the University of Connecticut. The two teams enjoyed a brother and sister-type of relationship during their runs.
The overall experience she said was something one only dreams of. Smith, who started every game this season, was overwhelmed by the support of the school’s fans during the tournament and the on-campus celebration when they returned.
“The campus was just crazy,” she said. “Everyone was really supporting us. They had police actually have to put people off the street because they packed the street.”
Smith and the women’s team gave them plenty to be excited about by becoming the first team seeded lower than four to reach the national title game. They did so by upsetting defending national champion Baylor and star Brittney Griner in the Sweet 16 and then beat Tennessee, which recruited Smith, to reach the Final Four. The win over Baylor is considered one of the bigger upsets in the history of the tournament.
“It just feels good to have that game as one of the games to go down in history,” Smith said.
She averaged 11.2 points and 6.5 assists during six NCAA tournament games. Her finest game of the run came in a semifinal win over the University of California. Smith had 17 points and six rebounds.
The run isn’t the end of the line for Smith and this Louisville group. The Cardinals won’t lose a single starter and just two players who saw time won’t return.
“We are extremely hungry to get back to where we were just this past season and to accomplish our full goal to win the championship,” Smith said. “We know we have the players.”