BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Monday night was supposed to be a historic one for Virginia Tech women’s basketball.
The Hokies were expected to finally participate in the NCAA women’s tournament for the first time in 14 years after a 21-9 season.
When the players left the floor in Greensboro, North Carolina after suffering a second round loss to Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament, the team immediately set its sights on the future.
“We gotta keep our head up and get ready and keep working,” graduate guard Taja Cole said in the locker room after the game. “We’ve been the underdogs and we continue to prove everybody wrong so I think we’re going to stay confident and stay ready and when the tournament comes and the opportunity comes, we’ll be ready.”
But the opportunity never came. Concerns over spread of the coronavirus cancelled the NCAA tournament, ending the careers of three Virginia Tech players.
Two of them were graduate transfers. Lydia Rivers came from nearby Radford University while Cole joined the program from the University of Louisville. And in their short time with the Hokies, they played an integral role in the team’s success, leading Tech to the most ACC victories in a single season.
“”I just want to thank Taj and Lydia for taking a chance on Virginia Tech and wanting to come here and help build something special that we’ve obviously been doing throughout the season,” junior guard Aisha Sheppard said. “Lydia, she’s had a ring and cut down some nets at Radford so she really did take a chance there. And Taj, she’s a McDonalds All-American and wanted to come here and help us out. They’re special and we love them.”
The duo had a “powerful” impact on head coach Kenny Brooks.
“When we embrace, it’s real. It’s real. It’s a real emotion and I’m really thankful for what they’ve done for this program,” Brooks said.
Then there’s the four-year senior and coach’s daughter, Kendyl Brooks, who remains fifth all-time in career three-pointers made despite missing her final season due to injury.
“She was excited about this year and then when we got the news that they had to go in and repair her hip and that she was going to be out the whole year, it was devastating. Devastating because she had worked to this point,” Brooks said. “But I’ve been extremely proud of her the way she’s handled everything this year. I think she’s ready for her next chapter, whatever that may be because of everything that she’s gone through.”
While Virginia Tech was denied of the chance to play in its first NCAA tournament in over a decade, there’s no denying the legacy already left behind by the class of 2020.