Connecticut's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (23) looks to pass the ball against the defense of Texas A&M's Karla Gilbert (34) during the first half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
She missed 12 games with an elbow injury and later mononucleosis, but junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis returned to the lineup for good on March 1 and was instrumental in helping UConn defend its national title, including an 18-point, 7-rebound effort in the championship win over Notre Dame.
When it was over, Mosqueda-Lewis finally had a chance to consider the journey that brought her to that point.
“It was worth it and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” she said, according to SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I was happy to come back at the end of the season and play how I can. ...
“I think this is the toughest season I’ve ever had,” she continued. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through and because of that I’m really proud of myself for kind of getting myself out of the hole. I couldn’t thank my teammates and coaches any more for helping me get out of it.”
Coach Geno Auriemma, who now has nine national titles on his resume, applauded Mosqueda-Lewis for her toughness.
“It was just one thing after another in the regular season for her,” he said. “I’m most proud of how she handled that whole adversity. For her to play her best basketball … I said before the NCAA tournament started that if we were fortunate enough to play six games, the six games could wipe out how frustrating the other four months were. That’s exactly what happened.”
During the postseason -- both in the AAC and NCAA Tournaments -- Mosqueda Lewis averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds, important numbers that often gets lost in the "Opponents have to figure out a way to stop Breanna Stewart" storylines.
And with title No. 9 now in the books, the goal is to get No. 10 -- and three in a row -- and the preparation starts ... now.
“The freshmen we have coming in are talented, and with the people we have coming back they will be able to learn from us,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I definitely can see great possibilities for us. It’s said to see Stef and Bria go, but it’s going to be a new exciting chapter for the rest of us.”