Making the big picture come into focus

(Editor's note: Wisconsin-Milwaukee senior Maria Viall, a 6-foot-3 center who in early December became the Panthers' all-time Division I leading scorer, will share a diary with ESPN.com throughout the season.)

Feb. 5, 2004

It's amazing how fast the year goes by, especially once you hit conference play. Only eight regular-season games left before the conference tournament. Usually I am not too sad about this time of year because I know I will have more years ahead of playing here at UW-Milwaukee. But my time here is dwindling.

I must say that our team has definitely turned itself around and is becoming more and more of a cohesive group out on the court each day. That is one of the greatest things to be a part of. I am sure that being on a top 25 team where your team's performances are top notch without many lulls throughout the season is an awesome thing to be a part of, and many of us mid-major teams wish we could have the chance. But I believe that being part of a team that experiences adversity with up and down performances throughout a season finds so much more joy when the team finally figures out the big picture together.

Early in conference, our starting freshman point guard, Aubrey Hampton, went down with a torn ACL during a game against Cleveland State. That was a big loss for us, especially because she had been playing so well. She is a great player who sees the floor well and isn't afraid to take the ball into the land of us giants, despite her 5-foot-6 frame!

Our team needed to respond optimistically and have other players step up to fill the position. At first it was a bit of a challenge because roles were changed among a few players. But now we have Kerry St. Aubin (AKA 'SA') -- I believe I mentioned her before as a fire ball of energy -- starting for us, and Anne Witte, a great 3-point shooter and off-guard sharing minutes at point guard. It also helps that all of our other guards feel comfortable enough to just take it up themselves, too.

As for myself, I have been dealt with some adversity of my own. For the past month, I have been suffering from a very sharp pain in my left foot. Our trainer and team orthopedic surgeon are not sure whether it is a stress fracture or just very severe tendinitis, so to make a long story short, I have been strutting around campus with a large but oh-so fashionable boot!!

Yes, I am trying to make the best of it. This pain caused me to not participate in practice at all and only in games for about 2½ weeks. The GOOD news (yes, there is good news) is the pain has begun diminishing and I feel as good as new (well, almost!)!

And we have a couple weeks left to prove to each other and ourselves how good our team really is -- with the hopes to still have a chance to grab the conference title (we are a game behind a three-way tie for first). We have a home game tonight against Wright State (man, I love home games!).

Good luck to everyone out there and talk to you soon!! Go Panthers! (UWM not Carolina!) ...

For more on Viall or Wisconsin-Milwaukee, visit the Panthers' official athletic site.