Sunday's game at the University of Denver on Sunday will be more than just another game for Vanderbilt's Hannah Tuomi.
The senior forward will be just 16 miles from her hometown of Thornton, Colo. Not only will her parents and siblings be in attendance but extended family on both sides will fly in from Minnesota to watch the game and visit. Plus, she expects some high school teachers and friends to be on hand.
So Tuomi definitely wants to put together a good performance, which means she needs to stay on the floor.
“I want to stay out of foul trouble,” Tuomi said laughing. “That is my main goal. It is nerve-wracking but, at the same time, it is really exciting. I’m stoked.”
Tuomi, who has committed nine fouls in the last two games, doesn’t get to play in front of family and friends often. Her parents, Jackie and David, usually make it out to Vanderbilt’s annual Thanksgiving Tournament and this year her brother Ryan and sister Jessica also made the 1,100-mile trip to Nashville.
Other than that, her parents will catch a game here and there and travel for the NCAA Tournament. In 2008 and 2009, Vanderbilt was sent to Albuquerque for the first two rounds, so that – a 450-mile trek –was a little more convenient for the Tuomi family.
Still, this will be the first time Tuomi has played in Colorado since high school.
“When her parents can see a home game like that it makes me feel good,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “They said they are going to bring a big crowd so hopefully we’ll see a lot of them.”
Balcomb understands that it is not easy for most out-of-state families to get to every game so that is why she tries to schedule a “home” game for those players.
The 23rd-ranked Commodores just played Wednesday at Bowling Green, which is a three-hour drive from sophomore guard Gabby Smith’s hometown of Cincinnati. On Dec. 19, they will play at Duquesne, which is in Pittsburgh, Pa. Senior center Rebecca Silinski went to high school in Birmingham, Ala. but was born in Pittsburgh. Plus, senior guard Jence Rhoads and redshirt freshman center Stephanie Holzer are also from Pennsylvania.
“We make sure we play where they are from and we promise them that,” Balcomb said. “Sometimes it is easier than other times. But that is something if you are not from the South, where we are going to play most of our SEC games, we have to make sure we are going to provide a game or two at least for their families at home. That is why you see some of the oddest matchups in our schedule.”
Tuomi, who is averaging 13.2 points and 6.7 rebounds a game, jumped at the chance to play for Vanderbilt despite receiving interest from Denver and Northern Colorado.
Tuomi said the opportunity to play for a bigger Division I school that consistently is ranked in the Top 25 and plays in the Southeastern Conference made the decision easy.
“It was just big – my eyes just got huge. I was young and kind of naïve and dumbfounded. But I was like ‘Oh, OK. Yeah,’” she said. “Vanderbilt was the big school looking at me so it was kind of like all or nothing. It was like go for it, you got to give up all this other stuff but it is worth it.”
• Freshman guard Christina Foggie arrived back in Nashville on Thursday afternoon after spending the night in a hospital in Bowling Green, Ohio.
She was carted off during the second half of Wednesday’s 79-68 loss with an apparent neck injury after running into an opponent’s shoulder on a screen. She had full feeling in her extremities and the CT scan on her neck and spine came back negative. She was kept overnight at the hospital for observation and was cleared to leave Thursday. She flew back with athletic trainer Michele Loftis and was supposed to meet with team doctors for further evaluation.
“Everybody was pretty shaken up – I know I was and the kids were,” Balcomb said. “We tried to respond as best we could.”
• Vanderbilt (4-2) will try to get is first road win of the season when it plays at Denver (3-3), which is a member of the Sun Belt Conference. In addition to the loss to Bowling Green, the Commodores dropped a 72-66 decision at then-No. 16 Florida State on Nov. 21.
The Commodores have committed a total of 40 turnovers in the two road games.
“I think getting mentally prepared to win a game on the road is important for us,” Balcomb said. “We’ve got to get a road win.”