Pollinger Pulls Navy Together

Navy's Kara Pollinger

Feb. 27, 2013

By James Greene , Patriot League Associate Director for Communications

Note: The following story appears in the Patriot League Basketball Tournament program.

To say Kara Pollinger comes from a small town would be a drastic understatement.

Navy’s junior point guard hails from Fort Gay, W.Va., a tiny town comprised of 705 residents that spans less than one square mile. It sits at the intersection of the Tug Fork and Big Sandy rivers on the western edge of the state, a stone’s throw from Kentucky.

Needless to say, heading off to play Division I college basketball and to train to ultimately serve in the country’s armed forces has made Pollinger a notable native.

“Obviously, it’s a very close community,” she said. “A lot of people back home still watch my games. It’s awesome to have that support. It’s cool to be the role model for the kids who want to leave and do the same things I’m doing.”

Like most high school athletes, she competed in multiple sports. She was the basketball captain her senior year at Tolsia High School, where she crafted an athletic career that included a pair of first-team all-state selections on the hardwood. She also earned varsity letters in softball and volleyball, garnering first-team all-state accolades in the latter as a senior.

It didn’t take long for her to draw the attention of Division I programs, including Navy during the summer before her senior season.

“That was the first time I had even considered the school. Basketball is what sparked my interest,” she said. “My main goals were to be a Division I basketball player and get an engineering degree. The Naval Academy offers both, and is pretty great at both of them. It filled all of my criteria.”

It was quite a dramatic change in environment when Pollinger arrived in Annapolis, Md., the summer before her plebe year at Naval Academy.

“It was definitely hard,” she said. “It wasn’t a typical summer of experiences for a 17-year old. I had to make a lot of adjustments. Looking back now, the things that were the hardest about adjusting I would guess are the same things about adjusting at other colleges — missing family, being away from home and having to prioritize your time.”

Two years later, Pollinger is part of the most decorated women’s basketball class in Navy history. Along with Jade Geif, Alix Membreno, Audrey Bauer and M.L. Morrison, Pollinger is one-fifth of a junior class that has already etched is name twice on the Patriot League championship trophy and played in a pair of NCAA Tournament first-round contests.

The minute she began practice as a freshman, Pollinger knew she would be part of something special.

“I thought it was pretty apparent right from the get go,” she explained. “It’s pretty typical here for plebes to not really speak much, to just listen and do whatever they need to do. I saw a lot in my classmates where they wanted to be leaders even as freshmen, especially Jade. I think as soon as we got here I knew that we were going to be a big part.

“It also had a lot to do with the awesome leadership we had from Angela Myers and Cassie Consedine. They pulled us into the program. Their leadership and our initiative sparked it from the very beginning.”

Myers and Consedine were seniors in 2010-11, and led Navy to its first League title. Myers graduated as one of the best players in program history, setting the school record with 511 assists while amassing 1,206 points and 249 steals.

And while both Myers and Consedine demonstrated the necessary leadership to get over the hump in 2010-11, Pollinger gleaned the most from the former as her understudy.

“She was always enthusiastic. She loved to be at practice,” Pollinger said. “She was so competitive in every drill. She made people want to be better. Angela was so good at having that positive voice over the team especially in times when things weren’t going so well. I definitely took that from her. I thought that was so powerful.”

After a year as Myers’ backup, Pollinger took over the starting point guard duties last season. She averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest in starting all 32 games, but her numbers were higher at the end of the season when it mattered most. She averaged 12 points in three wins in the Patriot League Tournament, including a 10-point, seven-rebound, five-assist performance in the 57-48 championship win over Holy Cross.

Named captain over the summer, Pollinger says the leadership responsibilities are shared with her four classmates. That’s especially important for the Mids, whose roster does not contain a senior.

“As captain I do view myself as needing to make sure my classmates are okay as well,” she said. “All of that leadership and responsibility can become burdens. I put it on myself to make sure my classmates maintain that positivity and focus.

“Day-to-day it’s a pretty easy job. My classmates make it easy that way.”

For a program that has feasted in March the last two years, the Mids appear poised for another run at madness. But if Pollinger has anything to say about it, Navy will not take recent success for granted.

“It’s easy to think that since we’ve won a couple of games, that we’ve been successful in the past, we’ll be successful now,” she said, “but we know we can’t just show up to win. Although we do have confidence from the past few years, we hold each other accountable to the point that we have to push each other to get better. If we’re not doing that, we’re just wasting opportunities.

“We have a mentality to play games for the end of the season. We’re doing a good job of keeping the true goals in sight.”