Lydia Giomi walked onto the court during warmups Friday night and was instantly greeted by the 6,523-person crowd at Matthew Knight Arena applauding her and her teammates.
"[It was] super surreal," she said. "I got goosebumps. I usually don't get goosebumps when I go out there."
Giomi has played on this court many times, often in front of crowds much bigger; but Friday, was different.
After the past two years of watching her teammates play in March Madness from the view of the bench as she nursed injury after injury, tonight was Giomi’s first time playing on the NCAA Tournament stage.
“It just this moment where I was like, ‘I’m in the NCAA Tournament, and I’m playing in the Tournament,'" Giomi said. "'Here we are, it’s been a little while, it’s been three years, but we made it,” Giomi said.
In Friday night’s first round matchup, the Seattle native, played a near 16 minutes, in No. 2-seed Oregon’s 78-40 win against the No. 15-seed Portland State Vikings.
“I thought she was great tonight,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “It’s nice to see her get to the line a couple times. ... We’re gonna need her. Ruthy [Hebard] is at some point getting tired or maybe a crazy foul or whatever, and we’re just gonna need Lydia to step in and she did.”
Last year during this time, Giomi was on the bench in a foot cast, watching her teammates make a second consecutive Elite Eight run. The then-redshirt freshman had suffered a severe foot injury about two weeks prior in Oregon’s opening game in the 2018 Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal against Colorado.
The year before that, her true freshman season was cut short after breaking her wrist during practice just seven games into the season.
Giomi said despite the constant setbacks of injury after injury, she’s learned a lot about herself as an athlete, but more importantly, as a person.
“I have a much more sound opinion of myself as a person,” she said. “I love basketball. Basketball is something that I do, but it’s not who I am. If it was going to be who I was the last two years, I would have been a wreck all the time because I wasn’t playing because I was injured.”
Now, three years into her Oregon career, Giomi finally got the chance to join her teammates on the Tournament stage, helping the Ducks win by scoring seven points, grabbing a season-high four offensive rebounds and recording a block.
“I think she was being really aggressive and showed a lot of confidence, especially in the offensive end,” senior forward Erin Boley said. “She was rebounding really well. She played great, and we are all very happy for her. We see her every day in practice and we know that she is capable of that so it’s really awesome to see her do that on this kind of stage in the NCAA Tournament.”
The 6-foot-6 forward said while she’s proud of the way she played tonight, she couldn’t have done it without the support of her teammates throughout the past two years.
“Our team has been working really hard on finding out where we can contribute as individuals,” Giomi said. “I think that’s really what I’ve decided is most important to me. It’s just where I can contribute. And really, I just love this team, that’s really what it is. I think that makes all the difference.
"I love this team with all my heart. They’re my best friends, and I wouldn’t want to be here with anybody else.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni