Wind: 1.01 m/h
It took five long seasons, but Kenny Brooks finally accomplished two of his long-term goals that he set when taking the Virginia Tech women's basketball head coaching position.
One was to get the Hokies to an NCAA Tournament. The other was to win a game in the tournament.
Check and check.
A lot has happened in these last five seasons. Brooks inherited a program that had grown accustomed to losing — Tech didn't finish a season with a winning record from 2007-08 through 2014-15 — and accustomed to an early end to the basketball season. Tech broke into the WNIT in 2015-16 under Dennis Wolff, but his contract wasn't renewed after the season.
Brooks' arrival instantly changed the program. He moved longtime point guard Vanessa Panousis to an off-ball role to take advantage of her shooting prowess. He unleashed Sami Hill and enabled her to be the scoring wing player she was capable of being. And he developed Regan Magarity into one of the best players in program history.
Tech won 20 games in Brooks' first season, and the Hokies proceeded to eclipse the 20-win mark for the next three seasons. Last year, they came awfully close to clinching an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2006, but the cancellation of the Big Dance evaporated those hopes.
This year, they came back for more.
An 83-71 overtime upset of No. 2 NC State on Jan. 28 sparked a six-game win streak (with a few cancellations sprinkled in between) that vaulted Virginia Tech into the NCAA Tournament conversation. Tech won their first game in the ACC Tournament and stamped themselves as a tournament participant.
The tournament didn't go as well as the Hokies would have hoped, but no reasonable Tech fan is complaining. The team won its first NCAA Tournament game since 2006 and ran into the buzzsaw that is Baylor. That's about as good as one could have hoped for.
Nobody will remember this season for the blowout loss to Baylor that ended the season. They'll remember Elizabeth Kitley blossoming into a star as a sophomore. They'll remember Aisha Sheppard ending her Tech career with an NCAA Tournament win. And they'll remember Georgia Amoore emerging as a reliable piece moving into the future.
Brooks has done a lot of winning in Blacksburg since taking over the head coaching role, but until this spring, he'd never pushed Virginia Tech back into the NCAA Tournament. He, along with his team, hit a large milestone for a passionate and dedicated fanbase that's been craving a return to national relevance.
Virginia Tech is there. The Hokies have returned to the main stage and now, the goal is to hit another level. But it's important to take stock of how far this program has come.
It can give you an idea of how much further it can go.