Air Raid

Texans have always been sports fans. From the football obsessed West Texas towns in Friday Night Lights to the die-hard Astros fans following the roller-coaster ride to the pennant race to the hoards of University of Texas students packing the Frank Erwin Center, when it comes to spirit—Texans have it.

In Lubbock they have what’s known as the Spirit of Raiderland, where Techsans are reported to bleed red and black, flashing the guns up hand sign and singing “Fight Raiders Fight.” Since the ladies basketball program began in 1975, the team has worked hard to earn the respect of these fiercely loyal Raider fans. When Coach Marsha Sharp came to Texas Tech in 1982 she captured the “Raider Nation’s” attention by taking the Lady Raiders to a new level of excellence—causing school spirit in Lubbock to soar.

Looking Sharp

Sharp’s first game in Lubbock, a 78–64 win over Abilene Christian on November 19, 1982, was the first in a long line of Lady Raider victories. This dedication to winning culminated when Sharp and the Lady Raiders beat No. 3 Ohio State 84–82 on April 4, 1993, earning the program’s first NCAA Championship. Not to be discounted as a fluke, the Lady Raiders opened the following season by beating No. 2 ranked Vanderbilt 74–67, establishing the lasting power of the program.

Since then, Sharp has continued to lead her team to triumph. After an 84–68 victory over Rice on March 2, 1996, Sharp became Texas Tech’s winningest basketball coach. (As of January 24, 2005, she had 547 wins.) Since 1982, Coach Sharp has brought a National Championship, eight conference championships, and two National Coach of the Year honors home to Lubbock. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Raider Nation Patriotism

The continued success of the program does not go unnoticed by fans, who come in droves to see Sharp and their beloved Raiders play. The United Spirit Arena had sellouts against Oklahoma State, the University of Texas, and the University of Colorado, in the 2003-2004 season. Tech ranks third nationally and first in the Big 12 in women’s basketball attendance with an average of 12,577 spectators per game.

Swoopes! There it is.

One of the most remarkable players under Sharp’s guidance was Sheryl Swoopes, who started for the 1993 National Championship team. The Brownfield native is one of nine All-Americans in the history of the Lady Raiders, was the 1993 National Player of the Year, and the number two scorer in the nation as a senior. After graduation, Swoopes went on to be the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her (Air Swoopes), to grace the premier cover of Sports Illustrated Women/Sport and to dominate as the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2000, 2002, and 2003. (The Lady Raiders also have sent Michi Atkins, Angie Braziel, Keitha Dickerson, Plenette Pierson, and Alicia Thompson to the WNBA.)

No end in sight.

The 2003–2004 season continued the team’s well-established winning tradition. The Lady Raiders had their best start in the history of the program—winning their first 15 games—and became the first Big 12 team to be ranked No. 1 since the league began in 1996. The school earned its fifteenth straight and seventeenth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament, once again demonstrating the level of competition that has become synonymous with the Lady Raiders under Coach Sharp. The team finished 25–8, 10–6 in the Big 12 and was ranked in the top 25 nationally.

So far the 2004–2005 season looks bright. As of January 24, 2005, the Lady Raiders were 14–3 and ranked thirteenth according to the USA Today/ESPN/Coaches poll. The Lady Raiders beat their neighbors to the north, with a 70–64 victory over Oklahoma in both teams’ Big 12 opener on January 5. They also beat Texas 79–62 on January 12. With less than a dozen more regular season conference games, including one more against Texas ( February 13) and two against Baylor (February 5 and March 3), the Lady Raider Nation, Marsha Sharp, and the women in black and red have plenty to keep their spirits up.