Feb. 26, 2014
By John Lock
"Going into senior year, you're supposed to know everything. You're supposed to tell the freshmen what is going on," Courier said. "But with a new coaching staff, we didn't know anything either. We were basically freshmen all over again."
It's the end of what both players described as a "roller coaster" four years at Southern Illinois. The pair came to SIU as part of an eight-woman recruiting class and have endured through four up-and-down seasons, tremendous roster turnover and a coaching change.
Courier became the first woman to sign a Division I basketball scholarship, coming out of a small high school in Wisconsin. Goins hails from a prestigious national basketball power outside of Knoxville, Tenn. They initially did not have much in common, except that both players found themselves on the sidelines before their first season had ever started. Goins was recovering from her third torn ACL, and Courier came down with mononucleosis within the first two months.
"We're just sitting there on the sidelines," Goins said. "Who would have thought these two skinny shooters would have been the ones who made it through all four years?"
Courier initially did not realize how far south Carbondale, Ill., was and became intrigued by the proximity of SIU to her hometown. Though she realized it was more than a six-hour drive on her recruiting visit, she had fallen in love with the school and became a Saluki. Despite the drive, Courier's family has attended all but two of her games--home and away--in her four years at Southern.
"I tell them all the time, `It's a long drive. I will be OK,' Courier said. "But they always find a way to have someone there. I'm so blessed by my family."
"We're building that block for the future. Something special is going to happen here. I know this team is going to be successful with Coach Stein. I'm going to look back and say I had a part of it, even though I won't be the one winning the championships."
"I didn't play," Goins said. "I didn't expect to play; I was just a freshman. Then, six or seven games in, we have an injury and I'm in the starting lineup. I was scared to death."
Goins quickly proved her worth, scoring 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting--including five 3-pointers--in a non-conference game against Vanderbilt. Courier has been a steady contributor to the Salukis, piling up 101 3-pointers in her career, which ranks seventh in school history.
Roster turnover crippled the Salukis through the duo's first three years; six of the eight players in their initial recruiting class transferred or left the program. Courier said her and Goins made a pact early in their first year to stick out their careers at SIU. The players have become closer with each passing year.
"I wouldn't pick anyone else to go through this with," Courier said. "It's an unspoken bond that we will always share. We're going to be lifelong friends."
When new head coach Cindy Stein was hired after their junior years, Goins and Courier found themselves at the start of another rebuilding process, but this time they only had one year of eligibility remaining. Stein calmed the nerves by giving clear expectations to the seniors from the start - lead and become mentors to the young players while the foundation is being set.
Both players found natural fits in their new roles; both players are friendly and talkative with good relationships with the entire roster. They have provided a leadership role that Goins said had been missing the previous two seasons. The results have not come in the form of wins - the Salukis are just 4-21 and 2-12 in the Missouri Valley Conference this year - but the team has improved its scoring defense and field goal percentage defense from a year ago, and Goins said she is "jealous" of the young players, whom she expects to see win a lot of games in their careers.
"The integrity and dedication of this staff to not only push these young kids and us but also teach sets them apart," Goins said. "You come off the floor, and they're always teaching."
Goins has already graduated with a degree in pre-law and is taking classes toward her MBA. Courier holds an impressive 3.864 GPA in psychology and will graduate in May. She hopes to stay in Carbondale for a master's degree in higher education. Part of the reason Courier wants to stay at SIU for her master's: She wants to watch a program on the rise.
"Even though things aren't picture-perfect like the movies, Sidney and I are starting to pave the way," Courier said. "It's small stepping stones, but we're building that block for the future. Something special is going to happen here. I know this team is going to be successful with Coach Stein. I'm going to look back and say I had a part of it, even though I won't be the one winning the championships."