April 23, 2009
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- After the completion of her inaugural season as the head coach of the Navy women's basketball team, Stefanie Pemper took a look back at the 2008-09 season and offered a first glance at the 2009-10 campaign.
The 2008-09 season saw Navy tally 16 victories to rank as one of the most improved teams in the country (tied for 13th) with an increase of nine wins from the 2007-08 season. The Mids also posted a Patriot League record of 8-6 this year (an increase of five wins from the prior year) to finish in a tie for third place in the final regular season standings. The eight league wins and tie for third place are both the best for the Mids, respectively, in 11 seasons.
The regular season featured Navy's longest conference winning streak (five games) in 11 years, a stretch that included road wins for the Mids over Holy Cross, Army and American. Navy's postseason was highlighted by a victory over Bucknell in the opening round of the tournament that allowed the Mids to advance to the semifinal round of the championship for the first time in four years and the second time in a decade.
Navy played a league-most 23 games this year that were decided by 10 points or less and tied for the most games among league teams that were determined by five points or less (11). Additionally, Navy set a school record by sinking 191 three-point field goals this year.
In looking ahead to next year, Navy loses a trio of four-year contributors in seniors Emily Cordle (Rome, Ga.), Whitney Davidson (New Oxford, Pa.) and Kalen Kropa (Reidsville, N.C.), but will return three starters and seven letterwinners from this year including 2009 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Angela Myers (San Antonio, Texas) and 2008 Patriot League Rookie-of-the-Year award winner Cassie Consedine (Bartlesville, Okla.).
On the season:
Like a lot of coaches I don't focus primarily on wins and losses but on things such as toughness, chemistry and execution. We formed some important habits this year, on the court and off. The women on the team bought in to how our staff was leading and it showed because we had a common focus. That said, winning 16 games was impressive, and finishing tied for third in the League when we were picked seventh is a credit to our team's perseverance. We had some injuries but we kept our morale up. The women have great spirit in them; we had a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.
On the 2009 Patriot League Tournament:
Beating Bucknell was big for us. Amanda Brown and Lauren Schober are outstanding players and Bucknell is very well-coached. It wasn't a pretty game and truthfully neither team played great. I thought we played good defense and offensively we rode the confidence of Whitney Davidson and Cassie Consedine, who were terrific. I was happy for the players to pull it out, and particularly delighted for our seniors. We were swimming upstream for the final 30 minutes of the semifinal game against Lafayette. Beating Bucknell was probably our biggest win of the year because they were such a tough matchup for us, but beating Lafayette would have been bigger because it meant playing for the League Championship. Our mindset going in wasn't where it needed to be. Getting off to an early lead, in retrospect, wasn't good. When the game turned, we didn't have the maturity and confidence together to pull it out. We'll learn from it.
On the rivalry with Army:
It's special. I've never experienced wanting to beat a team so bad but also respecting them so much. Few teams in sports have that dynamic; we're lucky to have each other. Alex McGuire was such a joy to watch; it seemed like there wasn't anything she didn't do. I liked their entire senior class to be honest.
On the 2009 seniors:
Our staff got lucky this year with Kalen, Emily and Whitney. Their leadership was critical. They each had their challenges but we were committed to them from day one and they were committed to us. They got the program going in a good direction. I think the world of those three and am really going to miss them. Their parents deserve a lot of credit for raising such wonderful women.
On the returners:
It starts with a big senior class, four of whom play the same position. They're a neat group of women and all of them have the skill and competitiveness to help our team be successful. We're really going to trust their chemistry and their leadership. If they're each others' biggest supporters we'll have a fun year. I love our juniors, too, and am so grateful to have Erin Edwards anchoring that sophomore class. Erin is the hidden gem on our team; I've never had a freshman more put-together than Erin.
On the incoming freshman:
It's a good group; we covered a lot of bases. We have size, athleticism, scoring and defense coming in. That said, I never put a lot of pressure on freshmen because you have to see what kind of shape they arrive in, how they adjust to college, and how they adjust to being a rookie on a Division I team. I like our class at NAPS; we are grateful to Tom Marryott and his staff for bringing them in. And I like the women we have coming direct. We're excited to work with all of them and to see what kind of competitors they'll become.
On next year:
We have a good schedule, a tough schedule. I think it'll be a lot like this year with a bunch of close games. So much is about camaraderie and mental toughness and those are areas where we need to continue to grow. We have strong personalities in our junior and senior class and it'll be important for them to keep the team first. We'll rely on them to respect and include the freshmen but mostly we'll ask them to lead by example and inspire them. College is such a time of development for young people and there's no better laboratory than a basketball court and being part of a team. College athletes are lucky to have their sport experience as there's a strong connection between their development as a player, and a teammate, to their development as a person, and a future leader.
On spring workouts:
Our staff has really enjoyed our time with the players this spring. It isn't much but it's enough and it's healthy. We've been encouraged by their effort and their focus. They're working real hard, especially in the weight room. On the court, we're able to focus on individual and team development. We're working a lot on motion offense concepts and trying to improve our ability to spread the floor, read the defense, read screens and be aggressive.
On the Naval Academy community:
Our players feel very supported. We are able to run a first-class program with our support staff and with our amazing facilities. We are grateful to our fans in the greater Annapolis community, on the Yard, and in the Fleet. I have a lot of respect for our counterpart on the men's side; Billy Lange and his staff do a terrific job with that team. Finally, I get the sense a lot of people feed off Chet Gladchuk's energy and vision and we are lucky to have him driving the NAAA ship. Rah!