A team four years in the making: Nicole Elmblad and Cyesha Goree

Allison Farrand/Daily
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By Kelly Hall, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 12, 2015

With 1:05 left in overtime, senior forward Cyesha Goree leapt up to the glass and grabbed an offensive rebound after senior guard Shannon Smith missed both of her free throws.

Fourteen seconds later, Goree drew a foul and had to step up to the line herself. After missing both of her free throws, she fought her way to the rim and pulled down yet another offensive board, her 18th rebound of the night.

This was Ohio State she was playing, after all, and she wasn’t going to let anyone else benefit from her mistakes.

Goree grabbed one more at the glass before the game ended in a 100-94 victory for the Michigan women's basketball team. It’s easy to assume that the game would have concluded in a much different fashion if Goree hadn’t scrapped for 19 rebounds.

But that would be assuming that senior forward Nicole Elmblad wasn’t there to help her out.

Elmblad — who ended the afternoon with nine rebounds herself — always complements Goree well.

“It’s great to show how no matter what position you play or what kind of person you bring to the team, you can always play if you know each other, and we worked on (our dynamics) a lot in practice a few days,” Goree said.

Added Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico: “I think they had a really great week of practice this week. We really worked on (Elmblad and Goree) playing off each other, and I think they connected really well tonight. Really well.”

The two have been playing together since their freshman year under then-Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. They’re also the only two remaining from their original recruiting class.

After completing their first season of college ball and learning how to play in the NCAA, they had to face adversity together once again. Borseth resigned, and Barnes Arico was hired before their sophomore season.

Even with the makeup of the program changing, Goree and Elmblad have remained consistent for the past four seasons.

Before Goree had her breakout junior season, Elmblad was already a regular starter for the Wolverines.

“(Elmblad) was able to play her freshman year and play a lot her sophomore year, so that kind of made me look up to her as far as what I needed to do in order to be successful and play like she did,” Goree said. “That gave me someone to look up to, even though we were the same age and came together.”

But after a season in which she averaged 12.1 points and 9.3 rebounds, Goree found herself on the scouting report alongside Elmblad. They each started 32 out of 33 games in their junior season.

After each game, the coaching staff awards stickers to the players who execute the “intangibles” — things that don’t show up in the box score, like diving after the ball, taking a charge or fighting for position under the basket.

According to Barnes Arico, Goree and Elmblad are head and shoulders above everyone else.

And since both appear most comfortable when they’re sprawled out on the court fighting for the ball, the image of one helping another off of the hardwood is ingrained in every Michigan fan’s brain.

“It’s an honor to play with Nicole,” Goree said. “I’m so glad we’re both here together and finishing our years.”

Without the other, each would still be successful. Both have the necessary drive to prosper.

It’s just more fun this way.