Sometimes, it takes a little while to find your way. But even when everything feels like it is moving against you, that can be the exact moment that a championship group is formed.
The key to finding that moment: remembering to play as one unit and communicating that goal with each other.
For me, my path to being part of our national title team started long before arriving on campus last summer. Through my experience in U.S. National Camps and my club team, I was blessed to be able to get attention from many college scouts starting in 8th grade, which gave me the chance to open up the recruiting process early.
But even though the process started early, it wasn’t really until my Sophomore year that I started to find what I was looking for.
Growing up in Southern California and with a Trojan as a mother, I had always dreamt of playing for USC. So when I had the chance to meet with Coach Keidane in February that same year, I started to feel like Southern Cal was the place I wanted to eventually end up.
But even with the background I had with the school, the coaching staff took the program to a whole different level.
The time and commitment that the staff put into my recruitment were something that no other program showed me, so I simply couldn’t pass up carrying on my family’s legacy and becoming a Trojan.
As high school finished up and I was ready to enter college, I didn’t really know what to expect.
All I knew was that it was going to be a challenge, but I had no thoughts of where I would end up on the depth chart. I just wanted to come in and work hard, solely trying to prove to the coaching staff that I was worth their investment.
So when our first game came around against Santa Clara and I saw that I was starting, I was a little tense, to say the least.
As my adrenaline shot through the roof, I was thankful that my teammates came over and were supportive. They wanted me to succeed just as much as I did, which helped me calm my nerves and gave me confidence that my preparation was about to pay off.
Which is sometimes half the battle right?
Unfortunately, even though earning the starting spot was one of the highlights of my career, our team wasn’t on the same page. Losing the first two games of the season, the chemistry felt a little off and each player knew they needed to pick it up.
After all, everyone knew the talent we had on our team was second to none, we just needed to all get on the same page.
So as our team entered the third game of the season against Pepperdine, we banded together to make the change that needed to happen. We were simply not losing that game.
And just like that, this idea of banding together sparked a 10 game win streak.
But even though we all started to feel that focus to work towards a common goal and enjoyed the success, it still wasn’t quite where it needed to be.
After 10 straight wins, we suddenly felt that chemistry and drive start to slip. Losing to Cal, a team we knew we could have beat, we had to reevaluate once again.
So after that game we had a closed-door meeting, where we could voice what we needed to do, stating specifically how things needed to change.
The overwhelming message: No longer could it be about personal achievement.
As a group, we decided that if we truly wanted to reach our goal of a National Championship, there could be only one thing on our minds: how each of us could help the team.
With this idea in mind, we also finally realized that we no longer needed to put the same pressure on ourselves. We were good enough to beat UNC and Stanford when working as one unit, so as long as we got back to that mentality, our goals of taking the Pac-12 and reaching the tournament were still within reach.
From there, our team communication in place, the group went on to reach every goal we ever had, finishing as National Champions.
Not to say that any part of the road to the National Championship was easy, but we just saw the rest of the way as building blocks from that meeting.
When I look back at that season, one that gave me some of the best memories of my life, I know it wouldn’t have been possible without first coming together and committing to the team after our early stumbles.
The desire and passion of every one of my teammates is something that I will never forget, as it was the fuel to the chemistry that drove us to become champions.
So now as we are heading into our next season, one that many say is even more difficult than winning the first, I hope we can bring that same mentality to the team.
Even with high expectations, we all know that if we stay committed to each other and come together when things aren’t going our way, anything is possible for the team.
Julia Bingham | Contributor