And the Sooners have. They finished tied for second in the Big 12 Conference, then played in the title game in the conference tournament. In truth, they had a better season than most pundits predicted they’d have with Hand.
Losing such a key player doesn’t always turn out as well.
Coale recalls her 2003 team. Like this year’s team, that squad followed on the heels of a Final Four appearance, but early in the season, the Sooners lost starters Caton Hill and Erin Higgins to knee injuries.
"For a little while, we played on fumes,” Coale said. "We were playing better than we were, and you knew at some point reality was going to set in and it was not going to be so pretty.”
She raised an eyebrow.
"And not that it was necessarily all that pretty while we were doing it, but we were winning games.
"This year just wasn’t like that. We weren’t terrified. We didn’t lay down and die. But we also didn’t have that super-human performance that prevents you from knowing what you really have.”
After that Notre Dame game earlier this season, Coale realized what she had and what this season could become.
"I just knew that our guys were going to grow up, our backcourt was going to develop and we were going to figure out who to be without Whitney in uniform,” Coale said. "Our pure reaction to that gave us a chance to be something extraordinary.”