Senior Day comes only once during a player’s career. It leaves them one chance to perform well. That’s it. There are no mulligans.
That was what All-Americans Stefanie Dolson Bria Hartley face today before a sellout crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion. And in the final regular season game of their career at the venue they delivered.
Hartley finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes. Dolson had six points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals in 32 minutes.
“I was a little worried about Bria,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She doesn’t look like it or act like it, but she’s a very emotional person. And I just kind of suspected that she would struggle a little bit early on, and she did. But once she got rolling she did exactly what she always does in big games when you need to play well.
“You can’t measure what Stefanie does just on points. She just continues to get better and better all the time. That’s the way it’s supposed to be on Senior Night. You’re supposed to play well. You’re supposed to enjoy yourself out there. And they did.’’
The day started with Dolson, flanked by her parents Steve and Krystal, dancing her way toward midcourt during the pregame ceremony. It was vintage Dolson.
“Actually, I had no idea what I was going to do,’’ Dolson said. “I wasn’t even sure if the music would be loud enough. So it was really last minute. But I just winged it out there. It was fun. And I figured what better way to go out than the way I came in, dancing.’’
Dolson even did a shake in front of Auriemma before the two exchanged a hug.
“I’ve seen enough of it over the last four years so it reminded me of that great line from League of Their Own,’’ Auriemma said. “I’ve seen enough to know that I’ve seen too much. That’s kind of how I felt.’’
There was no dancing for Hartley. She said she did not feel any pressure to do so, either. She did just a simple walk-out with her parents, Dennis and Simone.
“That’s just Stef,’’ Hartley said. “(Team athletic trainer) Rosemary (Ragle) was like, `Can you top that?’ I just told her, `Nope, I’m just going to walk out there.’ That’s just our personalities.’’
Hartley and Dolson also achieved UConn immortality today by becoming the 14th and 15th players to be inducted into the Huskies of Honor.
“All I could do was smile,’’ Hartley said. “I was just really excited and I was happy. I’ve been waiting to do that since I was a freshman, and I just thought … That was my dream coming here. You just see that wall. And now I think even after when we came back out (of the locker room) I just looked and I was like, `That’s pretty cool to be up there.’’’
Said Dolson “That is something that’s small, but it’s in such a large program that has been here forever and has history. To have my little part in it is just something special that I’m proud, my family’s proud of. And I never would’ve thought was going to happen four years ago.’’
Here are some more thoughts from Dolson and Hartley on Senior Day …
“I had a great day,’’ Dolson said. “It was a lot, a lot of fun. Better than I could’ve imagined it. So it was exciting. The environment was just amazing. To have all these fans come out for the two of us. And to be able to share it with Bria, the fact that we came in, started as freshmen and just have gone on such similar journeys throughout our careers and to end it together is just a moment that we’ll never forget.’’
Said Hartley: “I think it was awesome. I was excited to be out there playing. I knew I had a lot of family here. So that was really exciting as well. Just the entire game. I think I was just kind of enjoying the moment while I was out there.
“I think you always want to play well every game, but especially on your Senior Night. Especially when you’re going out there and it’s one of your last times playing in this arena, all your family’s there and everyone’s coming to see you play. So it’s a really big moment and the spotlight’s kind of on you so you really want to shine in that moment.’’