Published: February 18, 2016
The University’s women’s basketball team is currently ranked as the fourth-best Division III team in the nation, with a current undefeated record of 24-0. The Lady Royals played their first game Nov. 14 against The College of New Jersey, beating TCNJ 59-53. From that point on, winning became a habit.
The 24-game win streak is the best undefeated streak in school history, as no team from the past was able to duplicate the success of this year’s current team.
The seeds for success were planted in the offseason, as the team diligently prepared for the beginning of what was sure to be a completely different season than last year’s.
“In the offseason it was different, because this year there was a new transition that happened by adding a new coach,” junior guard Sarah Payonk said. “We focused on what we needed to improve on during our offseason preparation. We did a lot of scrimmaging, and we developed our skills.”
The team’s success is even more impressive considering the team lost one of The University’s best point guards, Lindsay Fluehr. In Fluehr’s absence, the team has relied heavily upon the talent of junior forward Alexix Roman. Roman has led the team in both points and rebounds on six separate occasions. The entire team, however, has stepped up this year.
Senior guard Noelle Alecia said the losses of key members forced the rest of the team to play harder, and the Lady Royals are benefiting from the combined efforts.
“I think it’s a completely different team this year. We had an All-American, we had Lindsey, an amazing point guard, we had Leah, we lost two amazing people. But that kind of made us, as a team, step up more,” Alecia said. “Because of losing such important players, we had to rearrange how we were going to play.”
Alecia also noted that the addition of new head coach Trevor Woodruff has improved the dynamic of the team.
“I think that’s what’s good about the new coach. He came in and didn’t know the old team, so he just took the players he had and was able to reconstruct the team in a way that was going to be the most beneficial for us,” Alecia said.
Alecia also alluded to how much the team has enjoyed proving people wrong.
“It’s been a pleasant surprise, and a lot of people underestimated us going into the year, because we lost so many big pieces. It’s been a lot of hard work, we put the time in and it’s nice to see that in a game,” Alecia said. “It’s nice to see that despite what others thought and despite what people expected, we were able to have our hard work pay off with success.”
Fellow senior guard Jaclyn Gantz said the team’s off-court chemistry has proven to be a main catalyst for its success.
“It’s a combination of things. We have a really good coach, not that we haven’t had good coaches before,” Gantz said. “We also have really good players, and a really good dynamic. We’re gelling, and we really get along. We have a lot of chemistry on and off the court, and that really helps us when we’re on the court.”
The off-court chemistry has translated beautifully during games, as the team operates as one, cohesive unit.
Moving forward, Gantz said the team knows they have to stay focused. In order to do so, the Lady Royals are making sure they are taking one game at a time.
“Everyone always asks us if it’s hard to focus, and we really don’t even think about it. We don’t talk about being undefeated,” Gantz said. “People always ask, ‘Oh, is that a lot of pressure,’ and I always say, ‘no,’ because I don’t think that’s something we think about. Going into every game, we focus on being 1-0. We focus on that every game, and that takes the pressure off, because that’s all you’re thinking about. Taking one game at a time is definitely a key to keeping the momentum.”
The Lady Royals will look to continue their impressive season by turning their regular-season success into postseason magic. The women’s basketball team is back in action next at Catholic University Saturday, Feb. 20.
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