Monday was the first time new womens head basketball coach Joanne McCallie felt the connection - the one that meant for the first time that she wasnt a new coach teaching old players.
They were a team.
It happened after junior captain and forward Abby Salscheider bench pressed 150 pounds. McCallie had been pushing her players for the past five weeks in conditioning practice to lift more, run faster and work harder - even if they werent on the court yet.
And for the first time, it seemed to be paying off.
It was so incredible, she said. The max-out in the weight room showed that what we had been doing was working. Today is the first day we have been in championship position.
And McCallie is no stranger to championship seasons. She earned two North-Atlantic Conference championships, two America East Conference championships, five regular-season conference titles, six NCAA tournament berths and seven seasons with 20 wins or more.
In her first year as MSUs head coach, the spunky and intense 34-year-old plans on continuing her tradition.
Ive been to six straight NCAA tournaments and in 10 years, I want to be sitting here saying Ive been to 16, she said.
The Northwestern graduate and former player said her coaching philosophy is very uptempo and smart. But she also hopes to influence her athletes to be good people and make a difference in the community.
I think they need to have a real purpose in life, she said. Having kids myself has helped me learn how to read and how to teach these women.
McCallie and her husband, John McCallie, have two children: 6-year-old Madeline and 6-month-old Jack. With two children at home, McCallie said her husband is a tremendous support to her behind the scenes.
My husband is a stud muffin, she said. We have a real connective team effort.
Her players, including senior captain and forward Becky Cummings, said with McCallies intensity and spirit, the team should achieve its goals.
She really wants to make you have the mind-set that you cant fail - in the classroom, in the weight room or on the court, she said. She has this drive of intensity to her, and its not negative at all. She pushes you when you think you cant go any further.
Sophomore guard and captain Vnemina Reese said McCallies drive is exactly what the Spartans need.
She wants us to do things perfectly, she said. Her intensity is sky-high. Its what we need.
McCallies personality and professionalism is what brought assistant coach Janel Grimm from Maine with her.
I worked with her for a year at Maine, and I learned a lot from her there, she said. Shes energetic, she has a family. Shes just a role model. - Not just for women basketball players, but for young women in general and the community.
Overall shes just genuine. Who you see is who she is. She cares about everyone she is involved with, and makes them all better in the long run.