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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Sneaking Up

For a team that had just lost four of five games during a critical conference stretch, you’d think the resulting effects would send the team spiraling into panic-mode, maybe even crushing their confidence and dampening their spirits. Such a trip couldn’t possibly provide a team with any positives, could it?

That’s not the way women’s basketball head coach Shawn Polk sees it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and with a young crop of players quickly picking up experience, Coach Polk seems to be taking that same approach with her team.

“We’re learning a lot about ourselves,” Polk said, reflecting on the trip. “Even from our losses. The chemistry is really getting good between [the girls]. They’re learning from their mistakes and starting to see their true potential. They’re really a lot of fun to

coach.”

There was a lot to learn from during the trip, both positive and negative.

Going into their first critical conference game, their opponent, Southern Maine, was ranked 13th in the nation and was the conference leader; nobody gave the Beacons a chance. To make matters worse, the Beacons didn’t help their cause by digging themselves into a 36-16 hole by halftime. But leaning hard on the chemistry and teamwork that’s been growing, the Beacons fought back and outscored Southern Maine 40-28 in the second half. They would eventually lose the game 64-56, but it provided the Beacons with a much needed confidence-booster.

Just ask the players.

“I think that’s the closest we’ve ever come to beating Southern Maine,” freshman center Laura Mello remarked. “We definitely knew as a team we could do big things. We believe we can play with anyone, and beat anyone.”

Freshman guard Stephanie Vasquez looked further down the road. “I think this game proved that they’re beatable,” she said. “We’ll be ready for them in the tournament.” Fellow freshman guard Mairi Lamson noted teamwork: “It helped open our eyes,” she remarked. “Coming so close to beating them helped us out as a team altogether.”

The players aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Assistant Coach Josh Bartley believes it too.

“It helped us realize the type of intensity we have to play with,” he remarked. “We always knew we could play with anybody. But at the same time, if we don’t play with that same intensity then the outcome won’t be as positive.” A good example can be seen in their loss against UMass Dartmouth, who hadn’t won a conference game in 25 attempts. “We didn’t do our job,” Coach Polk said. “Every day there is a new challenge. We just need to work just as hard as the day before, and sometimes even harder.”

The loss of two seniors earlier in the season was a situation that would demand the Beacons to work harder. The two seniors include center Alicia Querusio and leading scorer LaKeisha Tucker. When asked about the two departures from the team, Coach Polk didn’t want to comment about it. “It’s an issue we have moved past from,” she replied.

These absences forced the younger players to carry a heavier workload. Coach Bartley believes this has worked to the Beacons’ advantage. “Playing now, we’re the type of team nobody wants to face in the Little East playoffs,” he explained. “Because we are young… you don’t know what team is going to show up. Is it the team that loses to [UMass] Dartmouth, or is it the team that can play with Southern Maine and beats Eastern Connecticut?”

One particular freshman, Norma Cumbee, has made the most out of this extra playing time. During the conference trip, she has averaged 13.0 points per game, increasing her season average from 4.2 up to 7.8. “Norma’s an outstanding player,” Coach Polk exclaims. “We’re just looking for her to get a little more consistent. But she’s a strong player. She can defend, rebound, shoot the three and penetrate. She’s young, so she’s got a lot to learn. But with her on the court, we’re a much better team.”

The Beacons finish with a tough seven-game schedule, which includes five-straight road games and five more conference games. It might seem like a daunting task, but Cumbee, likes her team’s chances. “I think the next couple of games are definitely winnable,” she stated. “I think we will win them. It’ll do a lot for our confidence.”

Sure, the Beacons have been knocked down. But down for the count? Not likely. The amount of confidence this team possesses only radiates from guard Stephanie Vasquez’s prediction for the conference playoffs. Looking around at all her teammates, she summed it up in only five words: “We’re going to the ‘ship.”

With the entire team finally starting to gel, a statement like this doesn’t look too outlandish.

About the Contributor
Sebastian Lena served as the sports editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2009-2010 Lena also served as business manager Fall 2011