Tuesday night was another special night for the athletic program at Trinity Valley Community College.

It wasn’t a night where a team finished out another amazing season, but one of celebration for a team fans across Henderson County have come to love during the basketball season.

The Celebrate 8 ceremony for the TVCC Lady Cardinals was held at Cardinal Gym to recognize a team that has accomplished a history-making feat most teams could only dream of.

That feat was the fact they had won the school’s eighth title and their third straight National Junior College Athletic Association national title. A feat which has never been done by a NJCAA, Division I program before.

Fans in attendance had the chance to show their appreciation for eight sophomores who lost only two games during their time at TVCC.

Those sophomores are Roddricka Patton, Adut Bulgak, Shlonte’ Allen, Julianne Anchling, Coco Baker, Deborah Meeks, Kyhonta Doughty and Dominique Brooks. Baker and Meeks joined the Lady Cardinals this year as TVCC finished 36-1 overall.

I must say the ceremony was put together amazingly by sports information director Benny Rogers.

The work put in by the Information Technology department in webcasting the event was special for everyone involved.

I had to agree when Benny introduced Elena Lovato as the best coach in the land prior to her speech to the crowd in attendance.

Lovato has put together a record of 113-8 during her tenure at TVCC. She is the Spalding NJCAA, Division I coach of the year, and one of the nicest coaches I have ever had the chance to talk to during my career.

Lovato makes sure everyone she meets receives a hug, and is loved when they step foot on the Trinity Valley campus. She is a coach who puts her players first above herself to make sure they get the best education at the Valley.

During the past two national tournament media days I have been a part of at the college, Lovato wanted to make sure we talked with as many of the players as we could before she would talk with the media.

It wasn’t due to the fact that she did not want to do it, but she makes sure the student athletes are recognized for their accomplishments first, and does not take all of the credit.

Prior to the ceremony on Tuesday, I asked Lovato on Monday what it meant to lose a coaching legend she had been with during her coaching career.

The Trinity Valley family lost coach Joe Curl on Monday, as he passed away from congestive heart failure.

According to the TVCC website, before arriving at TVCC for her first tenure, she was an assistant at the University of Houston on Curl’s staff in 2008-09.

While I could not get her comment in time for my story to be published, I thought Lovato showed how much Curl meant to her with the following quote, and I wanted to share it.

Lovato said, “Coach Curl leaves behind an enormous footprint – a legacy of teaching and coaching the game that he loved so dearly ­– basketball! As one of his former assistants, I can attest that his spirit still looms large over my own life.  If there was one thing that I took away from my experience while coaching with him, it was this: "The price of greatness is responsibility"- not just his favorite quote - it was his way of life! Joe Curl was more than just a boss.... He was a friend, a mentor, a nurturing father figure who truly cared about me. Coach Curl was a HUGE blessing in my life, and I pray that his soul rests easy with the Angels above. The Lady Cardinal program was pioneered by some of the best EVER... And now we are so very fortunate to have guardian angels like coach Curl, coach (Kurt) Budke, and Miranda Serna looking over us!”

Lovato is the living embodiment of this statement, because she makes sure she is a friend and mentor to every athlete who steps foot at the Valley.

When she lays down a challenge to her players, she makes sure it is followed, and the success shows every night her teams step out on the court.

That is what makes my job so fun, is to see how passionate she is for the game of basketball. She made sure to thank every single fan, administrator, cheerleaders, band members, drill team and members of the media in attendance at the ceremony.

Fans of Lady Cardinal basketball are privileged to have such a professional representing Henderson County and the tradition of Lady Cardinal basketball.

Joe Elerson is the sports writer for the Athens Review. He can be reached at sportseditor@athensreview.com.

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