We've had our eyes on nine

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

After a first-round victory over Prairie View A&M, UConn plays Saint Joseph's on Tuesday night.

Being a senior has changed my perspective on a lot of things this year. Rather than just going out and playing, thinking the whole college experience will last forever, this year I’ve learned to appreciate everything much more.

I knew this year would be a lot of lasts -- last first night, last season opener, last conference championship and last opportunity to compete for a national championship. But the things I’ll miss the most are the immeasurable ones: the bus rides, the team dinners and all the fun I have with my team. Whenever I’m off the court I’m constantly reflecting on the journey I’ve been through here at Connecticut and how much it has helped me grow as a person.

But it’s not over yet, because we’re back and it’s time for round two! After winning the national championship in New Orleans last year, it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. We came back to a championship parade on campus, got to visit the Capitol building and were invited to meet President Obama at the White House. But this year is our chance to go undefeated and win our second consecutive and our program’s ninth national championship.

We’re extremely excited that the tournament has begun because it is truly a feeling that not all people can understand unless they are a part of it. Being able to compete in this tournament for the past four years has been like a dream come true. The fans, the excitement, the games; it’s why we play this sport and I wouldn’t want to go out any other way than with another national championship.

We’re lucky to have some of the best talent in the country sitting on our bench this year. Both Bria Hartley and I lead this team with experience and knowledge, and we have some incredible juniors in Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who makes every big shot we need and uses her body well, and Kiah Stokes and Bri Banks being the sparks off the bench with their defense and blocked shots.

Our sophomores, though, really bring us down … just kidding! Moriah Jefferson is incredible leading our team in steals and controlling our offense as our point guard, and Stewie -- Breanna Stewart -- is, well, the best player in the country, so it’s always nice having her on our team.

For our only freshman, Saniya Chong -- it’s always hard your first year, but she has made it look easy by having great instincts when she’s on the floor. We can’t forget our two walk-ons, Tierney Lawlor and Briana Pulido, who step onto the court every chance they can with the same courage and strength they did back in October when they first asked for a spot on the team.

Lastly, we have Morgan Tuck with her unfortunate injury, which doesn’t stop her from being our biggest supporter from the bench each game and practice. She gives us that energy off the bench that we need every time we get on that court.

We’ve had our eyes on nine all season and it’s time to not just chase perfection but to catch it, and go out in style.