|Posted March 13, 2008|
In the 'Tanagers' nest: Pack gets first practice
What the heck is a "tanager"?
Apparently, it's a small red bird, and the ThunderWolves played in the Tanagers' nest Wednesday night as they got in their first practice in South Dakota in preparation for the Division II National Tournament opener Friday night against tournament host South Dakota.
The ThunderWolves scored a date inside the auxiliary gym at Vermillion High School, home of the Tanagers, blocks away from the Dakota Dome, site of Friday night's game, in Vermillion, S.D.
The staff at Vermillion High School went out of their way to make sure the ThunderWolves' practice wasn't done in hostile territory. The Pack occupied the gym for two hours, going over top secret strategy in preparation for its game with USD.
The practice ended a day in which the Pack left CSU-Pueblo campus before even the birds were awake - bright and early - at 6 a.m. The team was given well-wishes and good-luck gifts from the CSU-Pueblo athletics staff, then made their way to the road toward Denver International Airport. The team made its way to Sioux City, Iowa, about an hour away from Vermillion, and hopped a charter into their hotel in town, one of only three teams of the eight-team field able to stay at one of the three hotels in Vermillion.
All in all, it was a flawless trip, without even the slightest hold-up at any airport.
Two years ago, when the ThunderWolves made it to the NCAA Division II Tourney for the first time in school history to take on the University of North Dakota, it was a different experience altogether, ThunderWolves assistant coach and then-Pack player, Leslie Haywood, said.
"We had to get a plan to Minneapolis and ride a bus five hours to Grand Forks, N.D. (site of the game that season)," Haywood said. "The day seemed like it would never end. But this was one of the best travelling days we've ever had."
The team's day ended in a normal way - with their trademark practice-ending half-court shot contest. Sarah Staggs was the victor, capping an end to a practice that was good - because somehow, even though it was nearly 1,000 miles away from home, it was normal.