Note: The Senior Day recognition will start at approximately 1:45 p.m. Saturday prior to the 2 p.m. tip-off versus Portland State
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Every senior class has a unique story. Some stories revolve around championships and school records. Then there are those such stories such as the narrative that the Northern Arizona women's basketball senior class of 2017 has lived.
There is no denying that NAU's win-loss record over the last three-plus years has not been up to the standards the Lumberjacks expect. The road has often been bumpy, but that is what makes this class – comprised of four-year seniors Rene Coggins, Bradlee Cotton, Taylor Leyva, Brittani Lusain and Catelyn Preston and first-year walk-on Chelena Betoney – so special. The heart and determination showcased to get past whatever has come their way has been truly remarkable.
"It's been fun watching them mature from wide-eyed freshmen to wise seniors," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick, who at the time was an assistant coach who was integral in bringing in the staff's first recruiting class. "All five of our four-year seniors are at or around 100 games played which is an incredible accomplishment because they've all contributed. They've also excelled in the classroom and made significant contributions off the court."
On the court, Coggins, Cotton, Leyva, Lusain and Preston have combined to play 519 games with 274 starts. The total minutes played is a whopping 10,778 minutes entering their final home game on Saturday versus Portland State at 2 p.m. in the Walkup Skydome.
Coggins and Lusain have been the class' headliners with each occupying multiple spots in the NAU career records list in addition to being on the cusp of joining the school's exclusive 1,000 point club. However, Leyva, Preston and Cotton have carved roles for themselves that have been pivotal to the team's success on the hardwood as well.
Three and a half years after they had very little time in settling into their lives as Division I student-athletes, it is only fitting that all five are playing significant minutes in their final season. Coggins is the team's second-leading scorer at 11.2 points per game, Lusain leads the team with 7.4 rebounds per game, and Cotton ranks fourth on the team with 102 rebounds. Meanwhile, Leyva and Preston are coming on strong as of late, each recording double-doubles within the last week.
Then there is Betoney, who herself is leaving a legacy despite being a walk-on. After an unsuccessful attempt at a tryout as a freshman, she pursued her dream once more prior to this season and is making the most of the opportunity. A fan favorite, and a definite favorite on the team, her three game appearances this year has been among the team's highlights with all 13 of her scholarship teammates pulling for her success.
All told, having heart in the struggle has got these six seniors to this point. What is that point exactly? A chance to craft the perfect ending to their Lumberjack stories. An opportunity to vanquish every obstacle overcome with the ultimate prize – a Big Sky Championship.
"These six seniors are finishing their careers at NAU, which says a lot about them in a day when it is easy for players to transfer especially when things aren't going right," Bostick said. "For them to believe in what we're doing says a lot. If we are able to finish on a positive note and if we're fortunate to win a championship, that's what they came to NAU to do. The goal with this recruiting class was to win a championship, so obviously it would mean everything to these six seniors to make it happen."
The beauty of stories is that it is never finished until the final page has been written. Who needs Hollywood when right here in a Flagstaff, a story filled with relentless perseverance and dedication despite struggles could very well end with a trophy being hoisted in the midst of pure jubilation.
Click below for an in-depth look at each of the six seniors.