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Feb. 26, 2006

by Cathy Bongiovi-Stewart

It’s often said that it’s lonely at the top, but Virginia’s lone senior- Tiffany Sardin- takes it all in stride.

Nicknamed “Granny” by her teammates, the 6-1 forward from Chicago is a proven leader on and off the court for the Cavaliers. As a senior, Sardin’s in her third season as a team captain. She and former Cavalier Val Ackerman (1978-81) are the only three-time team captains in school history.

“It means a lot,” Sardin said. “It means my teammates really respect me, and the coaching staff has a lot of faith in me. I think it’s an honor. To see my teammates believe in me, it makes me want to keep working harder. I’m glad I was fortunate to be a captain on this team, because it’s a great program. To be known as a captain is really an honor for me.”

Straddled with 11 underclassmen, including five true freshmen, Sardin’s had her work cut out for her this season.

“Just making sure they constantly focus on doing the right things and don’t get caught up in the wrong type of situations, especially on and off the court,” Sardin said of her strategy with the freshmen. “It’s so easy to get distracted, coming into a big university like this. Pretty much making sure their heads are on right and ready. I remind them not to forget what they came here for- basketball and academics.”

A sociology major, Sardin relies on her life experience when giving advice.

“I think it’s natural,” Sardin said of her abilities. “Growing up, it wasn’t the easiest. Looking at people in front of me, like my mom (Linda) and my old high school coach (Dorothy Gaters), I saw how they dealt with people. I followed in their shoes.”

When Sardin first arrived on Grounds four years ago, she had adjustments to make, too. Hailing from the Windy City, life in Charlottesville was quite different.

“It was a really big jump, because Chicago obviously is one of the bigger cities,” Sardin recalled. “Coming to Charlottesville was pretty much to me considered a college town- not that many lights, not that much to do. Even though I really don’t do anything. But it’s very different from Chicago.”

But Sardin didn’t miss the city most; she missed her family.

“I’m very close to my mom, my sister, and my brothers,” she said.

Last season, Sardin had the opportunity to play before her hometown crowd as Virginia participated in Northwestern’s White Invitational in December. Joining the starting line-up, Sardin paced UVa with a then-career-high 18 points against No. 18 Houston.

During the 2005 ACC tourney, Sardin showed the Cavs a glimpse of what to expect this season. Receiving the starting nod for both tourney games for an injured LaTonya Blue, Sardin tied her career-high with 18 points and grabbed a then-career-high nine rebounds in the upset of No. 4 seed Florida State. In the semifinal game against No. 4/3 North Carolina, she tallied yet another career high of 21 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from the line. For her efforts, Sardin was named the Aeropostale Player of the Game against the Seminoles en route to ACC All-Tournament Team honors.

“The flexibility of Tiffany Sardin helps us out tremendously, because Tiffany is such a flexible player,” head coach Debbie Ryan said. “She can move to the guard position when I get a little bit thin there, and she can move back to the post when I get a little thin there. That’s really the difference for us, that we have the flexibility to do that.”

This season Sardin has not disappointed the Cavalier faithful. She’s a permanent member of the starting line-up, and she’s posted four double-doubles, including another career-high of 22 points and 10 boards at No. 6 Maryland. Sardin helped UVa to its 16th Cavalier Classic championship where she earned the ultimate honor- Most Valuable Player.

“Tiffany’s well-equipped [to defend perimeter players] from playing here on the perimeter her first three years,” assistant coach Jeff House added. “And now [that she is] banging down inside, [she is prepared] for whichever area she’s in.”

As the only senior, Sardin doesn’t feel the extra pressure.

“I try not to think of it as pressure,” she shared. “I think of it as wanting to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”

Today’s game with Clemson not only marks Sardin’s final game in University Hall, it’s also the final women’s basketball game in the arena.

“I’m going to feel a little sad, because it’s my last game in University Hall, and it’s close to the end of my college career. I’ll miss (U-Hall). But that’s a nice arena over there,” Sardin said of the new John Paul Jones Arena.

With the ACC Tournament and post-season play right around the corner, Sardin has a list of goals she’d like to achieve before she hangs up her hightop sneakers.

“I definitely want to achieve 20-plus wins, make it to the ACC championship game and win it, and make it to the NCAA (tournament),” she shared. “(We’ll) take it one step at a time, but those are the most important things I want to achieve before my career is over.”

Tiffany’s Favorites

Food:	Chicken stripsIce cream:	Cookie doughWNBA Team:	Sacramento MonarchsActor:	Will SmithActress:	Angelina JolieTV Show:	Law & Order:  SVUSpot on Grounds:	The CornerUVa Tradition:	streaking the lawn

Three words that best describe me are … hard-working, determined, peace-maker.

My dream profession is … to be a physical therapist or professional athlete.

I chose my jersey number, because … Scottie Pippen wore it.

One thing I always pack for road trips is … extra everything.

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