After consuming practically a whole roll of Tums before every basketball game, Allison Carroll, a senior forward, frantically paces back and forth in the locker room while listening to AC/DC or Metallica.
Carroll said she is nervous before games because she feels she has to play well for her teammates, her coach, her school, her fans, her friends and her family.
“It’s important to me for my family and the people I love to watch my games,” she said.
Her mom, her dad, her Aunt Jo and her grandfather attend nearly every game. But one family member who doesn’t is her grandma, Nancy Brunner.
“I feel bad saying it because I’m bad with superstition-but, yeah, my grandma is bad luck,” Carroll said.
Carroll and her grandmother are very close off the court, but ever since Carroll was in junior high, she has been unable to play as well with her grandma in the stands.
“I think, ‘oh, my grandma’s here, I’m going to play like crap,'” Carroll said. “I have serious nervous issues.”
Her grandmother attended two of Carroll’s games in high school, where she averaged 20 points per game her senior year. In the two games her grandma saw, she scored seven total points and had foul trouble in each.
“I don’t know what it is about basketball. I have watched her excel in other sports like volleyball and softball, but basketball is a different story,” Brunner said.
Carroll did mature out of this phase during her college career and asked her grandmother to come and watch her play for Northern.
Brunner went to the NMU-Gannon game last season. She was there before the game, smiling and waving to Carroll, wishing the best of luck.
In the game, the ‘Cats had been winning by 20 points. But Gannon rallied and sent the game into overtime, where Northern fell 70-76. Carroll scored 18 points, but her grandmother still has never seen a basketball victory.
“I never in a million years put any pressure on her,” Brunner said. “I don’t know if she thought she had to do the best for me, because she didn’t.”
After the game, Carroll told her grandma that she didn’t want her to go to any more games. She said her grandma didn’t argue with her and wasn’t upset.
“It has to be a coincidence because I’m not superstitious at all, but it’s quite a coincidence, isn’t it?” Brunner said.
The family treats this situation as an ongoing joke. None of them can really explain why it happens, but there are no hard feelings.
Brunner said she’s still almost too proud of her granddaughter, not just as a basketball player, but as a person.
“She is just an awesome and wonderful girl,” she said.
Without her grandmother in the stands, Carroll has led the ‘Cats in scoring for the past two seasons. In the 2005-06 season, she had 351 points. Then last year, as a junior, she scored 371 points.
This season, the senior said she hopes to contribute on the court as a dominant point scorer and as a leader.
“I have always been a leader by example, I think, and I’m trying to do that this year as much as possible,” she said.
To succeed this season Carroll and the Wildcats are going to have to put all of their superstitions behind them and play to their full ability every time they step on the court, said head coach Troy Mattson.
“Different people have different personalities. That’s all it is. Some people believe [in superstitions] and some people don’t,” Mattson said. “I don’t think our team has too many. We are just trying to get out there and play good basketball games.”
The ‘Cats have a 7-10 record overall and a 2-7 record in the conference. Carroll is leading the team with an average of 15.1 points per game and 6.2 rebounds, but she wants to be leading the team in more than just points as the season progresses.
“I think for every team, a common goal is to win a conference championship. That would be great and I personally would like to grow as much as I can as a player and become smarter,” Carroll said.
Another personal goal she would like to achieve is winning a game in front of her grandma. She said her grandmother is an inspiration in her life-a person who has helped raise her to where she is today.
“My grandparents and I are really close,” she said. “I would love for her to see me do well.”
To this point, Carroll’s grandmother has been jokingly prohibited from attending NMU women’s basketball games. But this is the forward’s last season and her grandmother may just find the time and travel the distance to see her granddaughter win a game.
“I am going to make it up to a game,” Brunner said. “But I’m not going to let her know I’m there.”