In a long, long roundabout way, Lynn Marshall can thank Western Washington University athletic director Lynda Goodrich for her opportunity to go to Atlanta for the NCAA Final Four this weekend.
Marshall, who was on the WWU women's basketball team from 1987 to '89 and was then known as Lynn Munday, suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the 1988-89 season. Even without her, the 30-5 Vikings ended up advancing to the NAIA Division I National Tournament that season in Kansas City.
"Lynda (who was then the head coach at Western) said, 'You're part of the team, we'd like you to go with us,'" Marshall said in a phone interview. "That meant so much to me, because it had been such a tough year up to that point. I mean I was on crutches for a good part of the year up until then."
Little did Marshall know that she would meet her future husband, who also was in Kansas City for the tournament.
"My parents couldn't believe I met somebody from South Carolina," Marshall said.
Not just somebody from South Carolina, but Gregg Marshall - the assistant coach at the College of Charleston at the time who would go on to coach the Wichita State men's basketball program and this year lead it on an unlikely Cinderella run to the Final Four. The Shockers will face top-seeded Louisville at 3:09 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, April 6, in the first of two national semifinals, before Syracuse and Michigan play in the other.
"It's been an amazing ride - just one amazing game after another," Lynn said. "It's kind of surreal. Gregg and I look at each other, and it's like, 'Are we really going to the Final Four?'"
They are, indeed.
And just in case Whatcom County wasn't already pulling for the underdog Shockers, they can now pull for one of their own.
Lynn actually was born and grew up in Whatcom County.
Her grandmother, Margaret Munday, still lives in Bellingham and has watched every game during Wichita State's NCAA Tournament run - though not necessarily listened.
"It's been nerve wracking," Munday said in a phone interview. "It's almost an impossible thing that they've done. Sometimes I have to turn it down, because I just can't stand it if they lose."
Lynn attended Mount Baker High School and graduated in 1986. During her time as a Mountaineer, she got to play with Mount Baker legend Susan Anderson, and the duo helped lead the team to a seventh-place trophy at the Class 1A State Tournament in 1985 and a third-place finish her senior season.
"I loved it," Lynn said of her time at Mount Baker. "It was so much fun. Playing with Susan was an amazing experience. There are a lot of good people at that school. The teachers there really help prepare you for college. It was a really good program. Coach (Jim) Freeman was a great mentor for me and a great Christian man. He really cared about us."
Lynn started her college career at Maryland, but it only lasted one semester.
During a preseason workout, she injured her knee.
"They told me I'd be fine and just to stay off it for a week or so and it would never bother me again," Lynn said.
That wasn't exactly what happened.
Lynn said she came down on someone's foot during her junior year, re-injuring the knee. She went in to have it scoped and doctors discovered she had severed her ACL.
"They looked at it, and they said the tear had happened a long time ago," Lynn said. "We figured it must have happened in October of my freshman year, so basically, I never played one single college game with an ACL."
She still managed to average 10 points per game for the Vikings in 20 games as a sophomore before coming down with mono.
After meeting Gregg a year later - "She told me it was love at first sight," Munday said - she earned her master's degree at the College of Charleston and the two were married in Bellingham in 1994.
Since then, the Marshalls have had stops at Marshall, where Gregg was an assistant for two seasons, before spending nine seasons at Winthrop, where Gregg was the head coach. He was named head coach at Wichita State in 2007.
The couple have two children - son Kellen, 16, and daughter Maggie, 13.
"The kids get up tight and really want to win every game," Lynn said. "I always tell them Dad and the guys are going to do their best. Once they're out there and they give all the effort they have, whatever happens will happen."
And what has happened for the ninth-seeded Shockers has been an unexpected run through the West Region.
It started with a 73-55 second-round win over eight-seeded Pittsburgh, before Wichita State pulled off one of the biggest upsets of this year's tournament with a 76-70 victory over West No. 1 seed Gonzaga.
"That was a really scary game," Lynn said. "That was almost unbelievable to watch. I thought we could get La Salle (72-58 in the regional semifinals), but going up against Ohio State (the No. 2 seed in the regional final), they are very big, very good and very fast. I just put my faith in the team and the coaches and just cheered as hard as I could for them and tried to have fun."
Of course, it's a whole lot more fun when the team pulls off a 70-66 victory to advance to the second Final Four in school history - a feat that has made things "crazy" in Wichita, Lynn said.
Making the trip even more special is how close the entire Marshall family is with the 15 players listed on the Wichita State roster.
Munday said her granddaughter plays a big role with the team, as she "looks after those boys like a mother."
Doing so is just natural, Lynn said.
"If you think about it, if you have kids that go somewhere far off to play in college, you'd want to know somebody is looking after them," Lynn said. "That's what I'd expect for my son or daughter. We're there for them if they don't feel well or they're lonely or they just want to come over. One of our favorite players was a 7-foot center, and he would come over every year to watch the Super Bowl with my son. These kids are huge, but they're just kids. They need to know that somebody in town actually cares about them."
And as much as she cares about them, Lynn's basketball background tells her the Shockers have their work cut out for them today against Louisville.
"The most daunting thing is their press," she said. "Their guards are very good. But once you beat their press, you've got to run your offense and score. We've been playing very well, but we've got to keep it up. They're the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament. Gonzaga was a No. 1 seed in the region, but Louisville was the top team out of everybody coming in. With a team like that, you can't just focus on one aspect. Beating the press is a big part of it, but there's so much else we've got to do. We've got to run our offense and hustle and battle on the boards against a really good rebounding team."
Whether that is enough to pull off another shocking upset or not, at least one person in Bellingham will be watching and rooting for Wichita State - even if she can't bear to listen.
"It's going to be tough, but they've done so well just to get there," Munday said.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
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