Going into the Sweet 16 game against undefeated Christopher Newport University, Melissa Alwardt needed only 16 points to hit her 1,000th career point. Instead, she scored 25 points.

Alwardt similarly blazed through the rest of the tournament, posting double-digit scores and being named an All-American by www.d3hoops.com at the NCAA Division III Final Four in Bloomington, Ill.

This junior and health and society major still has a chance to improve on her record and six postseason recognitions next year, when she hopes the team can surge through Nationals again.

Did you know it was your 1,000th point going into the game?
I knew, but I forgot. Our senior Jess Mastronardi reminded me after the game. It was kind of cool; we forgot the ball, but what are you going to do. … I had no clue, which is better, I guess, that way. No pressure.

What was your favorite part of the whole tournament?
[It] was probably the celebration after beating Kean [University]. It was an unbelievable feeling. No one thought we’d get this far. I couldn’t even explain it after.

What about the Final Four?
The Final Four was just the best experience. We got treated like royalty, and we got all this free stuff we stole what we could. We didn’t want to leave empty-handed. It was so cool just being there.

What was some of the free stuff that you got?
We got a couple basketballs, a bag, a piece of the court, which was cool. All the free food you could imagine.

Was a UR crowd there?
We had our band and our cheerleaders, which helped a lot, and a lot of parents. But we got blown out of the water by some of the crowds.

What was the atmosphere like there?
Nothing I’ve ever experienced was like that. The whole arena was amped up the whole time for each game. There was a couple thousand there. … The atmosphere there, you can’t beat it. That was D1 level right there: the size of the crowd, the noise. It was a little nerve-racking.

What helps you perform well?
Just staying calm. The crowd, even if they’re cheering against me, I enjoy it. Even if they’re yelling my name or yelling some bad things at me, I really enjoy it more than anyone else.

How do you usually prepare for games? Did the Final Four differ in any way?
Personally I get really excited before games more than a lot of people, but I just try to stay focused and concentrate on who I’m guarding and the scout sheet.
In the Final Four you try to get some rest but you’re always doing something. They always have you scheduled to do things. But it’s basically the same, you just try to stay calm, don’t get too nervous. It’s a pretty big atmosphere there so nerves can take over.

How have you grown this season in a way you didn’t expect?
I grew as a leader, definitely you can see [that] from first to second semester, and I think leading is part of the reason why we got so far.
I think it came from everyone who’s been on the team before, not just me, but from the sophomores up. We knew what it took to win and that really helped our freshmen along.

Leber is a member of the class of 2011.



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