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Taryn Wicijowski's positive outlook helps her and the Utes overcome a challenging season

SALT LAKE CITY — Taryn Wicijowski's senior season hasn't gone to plan, but that doesn't mean it hasn't have its victories and successes.

The season is wrapping up for Utah women’s basketball team. As Utes (8-17, 2-12 in Pac-12 play) continue to brave the ups and downs, Utah’s senior leader is looking back positively on her experience. Wicijowski has reached 1,000 rebounds, accumulated 1,800+ points and has endured two injuries during her college basketball career.

And this season — her senior season — has brought on some unexpected challenges.

“It’s not how I thought my senior season was going to go," she said. "It’s been really challenging to deal with all the injuries we have, while being such a young team.”

Wicijowski said she has been able to overcome these challenges by focusing on each game at a time. She chooses not to dwell on injuries and navigates, and plans ahead into the season.

“I’ve been the injured teammate and have been on both sides of it, so I know how hard it is for those teammates. But, I’ve also seen that while I have been injured, my other teammates have success,” said Wicijowski.

"I have tried not to let those injuries affect me too much. You can feel sorry for your teammate and try to support them, but you have to be able to move on. That’s been the biggest thing for me, thinking: 'What's next? How can we still be a good team? How can we win our next game?'”

Teammates have said they focus a lot on quick transitioning and movement on the court, which naturally builds a strong chemistry and sense of trust. Off the court, the team has mirrored same structure to build relationships.

“That’s one of the reasons I came to the U. in the first place. The team has this family chemistry. Every year I have been here, we have that same family feel. We all like each other, and I think that’s something kind of rare. No matter what or who comes and goes, everyone seems to get along, and we genuinely like each other.”

Wicijowski feels playing in the post position on defense is her main role as a leader and contributor on the court. From her freshman to senior year, she transformed her skills into becoming a leader, and a stronghold for the team.

“We are the primary help position on defense. I can see everything in front of us, and that allows me to communicate with everyone else on the floor. Being in the position that I am in on our team, I can tell them what’s going on because they can’t see what’s behind them," she said. "I help with breaking press, and getting the ball up the floor, but that just comes with being old, and experienced, having good court vision coupled with communication.”

During the most recent home game against Washington State, Wicijowski reached a career high of 1,000 rebounds, but had no time to immediately celebrate. When asked about this milestone she laughed and said, “I didn’t really realize it until one of our assistants hit me on the back and said 'Congrats.' We were just going into time out.”

Wicijowski says it's nice to see her efforts and dedication pay off.

"It really is just an honor because there are so many great players that have their names up in our record books and have their name in top-10 lists. So to have my name up there is a great honor.”

As the end of the season encroaches on Utah, Wicijowski feels excited and anticipates that her team will finish strong.

“I feel like I have that this extra energy and urgency,” Wicijowski said. “I said to coach earlier this week that it wasn’t until last weekend that I realized how close we are to the end of the season. For me, I feel like I have this extra sense of urgency, realizing the last two games in the Huntsman are coming up.”

The Utes host Oregon Friday night at 7 p.m. and Oregon State on Sunday at noon in the Huntsman Center.

Despite the adversity that Wicijowski has faced, she has reflected on her happiest memories from this year that carried her through the dark hours to the high times. In addition to reaching numbers and statistics, a career-highlight for Wicijowski was participating in the team's success in the game against Washington.

From beginning to middle of the season, whether it was rebounding or play on offense, Utah’s scheme was seemingly missing one piece of the puzzle. With the team's first conference win, all the dots were connected.

“I really loved our Washington game. Finally everything came together, and that game was just really fun. I had a lot, a lot of fun playing in that game,” Wicijowski said.

After Utah’s victory over Washington (69-61), head coach Anthony Levrets mentioned how proud he was to see the team’s efforts resolve themselves. “This team feels like they could beat anybody right now,” he said.

"For me, probably the most memorable was our first game, and we won in overtime. That was my first official game back from a year off, so it was really emotional,” said Wicijowski. “My adrenaline was running extra high that day, and to win in overtime makes everything more interesting."

Wicijowski said that these challenges and memories created during the women’s basketball season taught her to see herself as a strong individual, who can wade through difficult circumstances.

“The first thing I thought after the first injury was that people don’t come back from this,” Wicijowski said. After her first torn ACL injury, she made a goal to get back to where she was as a player physically. “After the second injury I thought, 'Oh my goodness, people REALLY don’t come back from two torn ACLS.’

“I’ve always thought that I was tough growing up. It wasn’t until I got here (University of Utah) that I realized really how mentally tough I am while experiencing all the injuries and everything I had to go through.”

Wicijowski says she believes these experiences will help her in the future.

"I think that I realized how much further I can push myself. Mentally, I think I can take that into anything in my life; knowing how I can come back from anything, if I just put my mind to it. I can beat any obstacle that’s in my path. That’s something I’ll take with me in all my years to come.”

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