It hasn't been an easy journey for Monique Reid.
Louisville's fifth-year senior returned this season from microfracture surgery on her left knee, only to re-injure it in January. She was faced with the choice to either play through the pain until the season was over or undergo career-ending surgery. She chose to keep playing.
"It's amazing, I'm glad I didn't give up," Reid said. "I could of. I'm just happy all this is happening. All that we've accomplished."
Reid has helped the Cardinals reach the national championship game for the second time in five seasons. She's the only holdover from the team that lost to UConn in the 2009 title game. Now her basketball playing career will end against the Huskies on Tuesday night, hopefully with a national championship.
"I mean it's definitely ironic," Reid said of playing UConn twice for the title. "I cherish the '09 season, but have to say this was the best season. I wouldn't trade it for the world."
Reid grew up going to Louisville games long before her hometown school starting playing games in an NBA-style arena. She went to basketball camps and sat in the first row when the Cardinals played.
Fast forward a decade later and Reid hit the two biggest free throws in school history to clinch the regional semifinals win over top-seeded Baylor.
Reid was starting to round back into form with consecutive 20-point efforts in December before she hurt her knee in practice in January. She missed five games before returning to help the Cardinals earn a crucial win over DePaul.
"To see what Mo's gone through this year, that just shows that anything's possible," Louisville sophomore Sara Hammond said. "You can go through any adversity and of course we've faced adversity all year long. But for her, to see her fight through her injury and to say, 'It's going to be OK guys, I'm coming back, I'm not going to sit out, I'm going to play as long as I can, I'm not going to quit on you all.' I think that gave us more fire or more heart."
Reid tweaked the knee in the Final Four against Cal in the first half, but came back to play. Her playing basically on one leg has served as an inspiration for her teammates
"For her to come back after being hurt in the middle of the season is great for us and to have that on the court with us brings even more confidence to us," Louisville guard Shoni Schimmel said. "If Mo can do it on one leg and we have two nothing should stop us."
CHASING EIGHT: Hanging on the wall in UConn's locker room in Storrs is a photo of the team running side by side with the phrase "Chasing 8".
A win on Tuesday night over Louisville will get UConn's its eighth championship matching the Huskies with Tennessee for the most ever by a women's program.
"We were trying to come up with something for the locker room," UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey said. "And between (assistant coach) Shea (Ralph), (assistant coach) Marisa (Moseley) and I, we were talking and I think I may have come up with the title just as a reminder. ... We're just not big on a lot of stuff. Talking about it is not what we want to do, but having that as a reminder when you walk out to the lounge every day and you see it it's a good reminder to know what the goal is."
The photo was taken in early September during team photo day. Dailey joked that getting the picture right probably took longer than the season.
"It definitely means a lot," UConn junior Bria Hartley said. "I remember when we were taking the picture at the beginning of the year. That national championship is something that we've been striving for, particularly like me and Stefanie (Dolson) and Kelly (Faris) and everyone that's been here the last two years. We've been pretty close. We didn't make it to the national championship game, but we made it to the Final Four the last two years. And I think we're just trying to go out there and prove that we can win because both of those years we were there we felt like we could win a national championship."
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.