There’s no way Syracuse women’s basketball coach Marianna Freeman didn’t hear.
Directly behind the Orangewomen’s bench on Feb. 20, 1999, at Villanova, fans with their chests painted “MISSY #5” screamed for their hometown hero to enter the game.
But friends and family that traveled from Wescosville, Pa., to watch Missy Grosman play never got their wish.
Grosman could only turn and smile at the fans as she waited for Freeman to call her into action. But the call never came.
It was one of many heart-wrenching nights for Grosman during her first two years at Syracuse.
Now, the fifth-year senior plays in every game — for the Syracuse field hockey team. She will start on Sept. 29 against Boston College, lining up at back like she always does. She’s found a steady role in field hockey, something she never could do on the hardwood. But there are still times Grosman thinks back to her basketball days.
“People think in field hockey (with me) being tall (6 feet), I must have been a good basketball player,” Grosman said. “It’s a lot tougher than people think. I’m an athlete. I just wanted to play.”
She almost never did, scoring just 18 points her entire basketball career. She averaged only 3.6 minutes per game her sophomore season.
With a rigorous practice schedule and nothing to show for it, Grosman began contemplating quitting the basketball team during her sophomore year, her last on the hardwood.
“It was emotional,” Grosman’s mother, Nancy, said. “Basketball was everything for her. She loved it ever since she started playing.”
But Grosman had many reasons to switch sports.
“I missed (field hockey),” Grosman said. “I didn’t have hard feelings (toward the basketball team), but I had the opportunity to play here.”
The move also teamed Grosman with an old friend from home. SU goaltender Audrey Latsko and Grosman played together at Emmaus High School. The two helped Emmaus win three straight state championships.
So when Grosman decided to move to field hockey, Latsko was excited to have an old high school teammate in front of her.
But high school was the last time Grosman had played field hockey before deciding to make the switch in 2000. Worse yet, she had never played on the Astroturf that covers SU’s Coyne Field — her high school field was grass — and had only a three-month summer to adjust to the faster pace of the college game.
“Basketball is short court and there is a lot more sprinting involved,” Grosman said. “Field hockey is a lot more endurance. Just running long distance is something I had to work on.”
But if there was one thing Grosman had learned from basketball, it was patience.
“It was difficult at first to get all my basic skills back,” Grosman said. “But it kept getting better. (The coaches) made it really easy for me.”
Grosman started every game that first season at sweeper. Her biggest moment came against Connecticut in the Big East semifinals when she stopped a would-be goal.
Last year, Grosman’s production continued to improve. She started all 20 games, scoring eight points and leading a defense that helped Syracuse to a Big East championship.
And even after this, her final year, Grosman doesn’t plan to leave her love for sports on the field. A physical education major, Grosman plans on following in the footsteps of her mother, a coach and gym teacher.
“She took away a lot from basketball,” Nancy Grosman said. “She’s going to give back to the kids what she got from sports.”
Until then, Grosman will try to help Syracuse in any way she can.
“I don’t have too many personal goals,” Grosman said. “What we do as a team is my personal goal. I just want to help my team win.”
She does it through leadership.
“If she sees us kind of flat, she won’t be yelling,” sophomore Ann-Marie Guglieri said. “But she’ll be working hard and everyone feeds off her example.”
“She has a keen sense of competition,” head coach Kathleen Parker said. “It comes out on game day.”
Too bad Grosman never got a chance to show that competitiveness on the court.
Originally published in The Daily Orange on September 27, 2002.