This is a story about Muslim women. It's a completely happy story.
Except for when they lost the big game.
"All right, let's play," says Hebah Sadek, coach of the Carolina Cyclones, at the start of a recent Wednesday night practice at the Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte. That weekend, the Cyclones -- 10 young women of shared faith, but not much athletic experience -- would pile into a van bound for Tampa, Fla., to play in a national youth tournament sponsored by the Muslim American Society.
When crunch time came, Sadek and her fellow players were focused, even intense, but always considerate.
"My bad -- sorry," mutters Sophie Brelvi, when a bounce pass misses its target wide.
"Nice," she says a moment later, when teammate Sadek retrieves the stray ball, fakes left, drives around a defender and lays it up for an easy two.
In line with their religious observance, the Cyclones play in hijab, the head-covering traditionally worn by Muslim girls who've reached adolescence. Their practice togs: long-sleeve T-shirts over track pants or sweats. Never shorts. (MORE)