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2022 Women’s Four Finals – Emily Engstler sees fit to win against Louisville Cardinals

Jeff Walz is the king of satire. And he was all smiles Monday night during his post-game press conference in Louisville after winning a spot in the Women’s 2022 Finals. But in the excitement, the Cardinal’s coach suddenly lowered his head in tears. Senior Emily Engstler’s words had just hit his heart.

When asked about how Walz has led top-seeded team Louisville — against fellow 1-seeded South Carolina in the national semifinals in Minneapolis on Friday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) — to a lot of gains. success as a show, Engstler has said it’s personal. Having struggled with anxiety during his three years in Syracuse, Engstler said arriving in Louisville this season is more than just a fresh start. It’s an opportunity to click with a trainer who bonded with her right away.

“He means the world to me,” the 6-foot-1 forward said Monday after the Elite Eight win over Michigan in the Wichita Regional. “I think it’s been a rough three years for me, and he’s just someone who has put me under his command. [wing] and don’t really care who I am or where I come from spiritually, and I really appreciate him. He is a good person. “

Walz got up from his seat at the end of the podium, walked over, put his arm around Engstler, and whispered something to her.

“I love you too,” she replied.

“He’s really fun to play,” she continued. “He lets you be yourself, he protects you and you can trust him, and that’s hard in this industry. So I’m grateful to him and I’ll do whatever I can. to bring him the national championship.”

Louisville for the fourth time in the national semifinals, and Engstler was a major reason. The native New Yorker, one of the most disruptive quarterbacks in the NCAA tournament, found a coach and a program that helped her grow.

“She just does things you don’t teach,” says Walz. “It’s her.”

This Cardinals team mirrors modern-day colleges: There were three transfers in the starting lineup, including Engstler, who joined last year’s exodus from Syracuse along with South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso.

They were Orange’s top two home goalscorers in 2020-21, but after Syracuse’s 83-47 loss to UConn in the second round of that national tournament, 11 players were transferred. Coach Quentin Hillsman resigned in August after the school launched an investigation into allegations of bullying and inappropriate behavior against him.

Engstler says of Hillsman now, “I wish him the best, but I don’t think we really worked together that well. I think he knew that too. And we tried our best. But it just comes to a point where it’s time for me to move on, and sometimes that just happens.

“I think the best times I had at Syracuse were the relationships that I created that I still have. As you fit in. That can certainly be stressful. It’s a tough space to be in. have been. “

Engstler, who grew up in Queens, New York, said she hit a low in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. She struggled with energy, which she says she usually has in abundance. She felt out of shape and out of place. It’s a hole she wants to climb out of, and she’s focused on exercising and working out. She lost 40 pounds and also gained a new perspective.

“You surround yourself with the right people: small circles, people who really love you and want to see you do well,” Engstler says. “I think I’m a kid who gets bumped into a lot of things at once, because things don’t always turn out that way. [at Syracuse].

“My family helped me get out of bad shape. After losing weight, you don’t really see yourself as one to lose weight right away. It takes a while to really adjust to your body and understand that,’ Hey, you made it. , there you are.’ I definitely think I’m in a better place in my life, 100%.”

Engstler had a brace in both games against Louisville last season, including 21 points and 10 rebounds in Syracuse’s ACC tourney loss to the Cardinals. So Walz saw firsthand how good she was, and he started recruiting Engstler as soon as she entered the transfer portal.

“We fought her for three years,” Walz said. “When she walked into the transfer window, the first person I talked to was Mykasa Robinson on our team, because Emily will affect Mykasa’s playing time more than anyone else on this team.

“And Mykasa, without hesitation, said, ‘Coach, I’m tired of guarding her for three years.’ She always had a hard time protecting her.

Engstler said the Louisville team was welcoming, but she was away from New York for the first time. Engstler talks like a New Yorker – direct and frank – and she says what she thinks and feels about him.

Managing her emotions on court is something she has to learn to do, but off the court, Engstler isn’t afraid to show them. Her tattoo speaks to what is dearest to her, from her crossed pinky hands symbolizing attachment to her sister (on her arm) to the basketball court she plays when grow up (on the calves).

“It’s lonely at first… you don’t just make your best friends in a month or two,” said Engstler, who is averaging 11.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.7 steals. going to Louisville. “You just have to be patient with change. Good things happen when you let it come to you. And I think after a while, we all click on the court and connect with the court. .”

Hailey Van Lith and Louisville’s second-year guard Engstler say they are complete opposites.

“Emotionally, Emily is just the tough New York City girl,” Van Lith said. “Teams can try to beat us and physically with us, but I know she has my back, and she knows I have her.”

Co-star Kianna Smith said of Engstler and Van Lith: “They have a great relationship. We laugh at them a lot because they have funny jokes. I’m so glad they have each other.”

Walz is happy to have Engstler and Van Lith this season, and the Elite Eight’s win over Michigan shows that. Van Lith led the charge offensively with 22 points, while Engstler bolstered the defense with 16 rebounds and six steals. In the final more than five minutes of the game, werewolves did not score.

“She was obviously really disruptive,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said of Engstler. “Her length is amazing, and she walks the crossing lanes, and it seems like every big play they do, she’s in.”

Walz praised Engstler during the Wichita Regional, saying she reads the passing lanes as well as any Louisville player since show legend Angel McCoughtry, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the United States. Ky, who currently plays with the Minnesota Lynx. Walz also says that Engstler understands when and how to take risks defensively.

“Emily’s basketball instinct was off the charts,” he said. She can read people’s eyes It’s hard to prepare if you’re someone else, coach, because I don’t even know what she’s going to do. I said to her, “Just play the game. Just be you.”

Walz and Engstler liked to appreciate each other, but it was based on mutual appreciation. Engstler said she tried not to give Louisville the sense of distress she felt sometimes in Syracuse. She didn’t want to talk much about it, wanted to move on. But it all came down to her after the Elite Eight’s victory. When asked why she thinks Walz was in tears over what she said on Monday, Engstler said it was because he understood so much about her that she didn’t even tell him. .

“It’s hard to move out after you’ve been somewhere for three years,” she says. “Obviously, somewhere along the way, you’re not satisfied. I’m succeeding and thriving at a show where he gave me a chance. We spent a lot of days together working hard for the cause. This exact moment is in Finals 4. And when you do that to someone, you just feel their emotions.”

https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/33633807/women-final-four-2022-emily-engstler-finds-winning-fit-louisville-cardinals 2022 Women’s Four Finals – Emily Engstler sees fit to win against Louisville Cardinals

Luke Plunkett

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