NEW BRITAIN - The CCSU womenâ€™s basketball team is off to a tremendous start in NEC play, having won each of its first six conference games. That 6-0 record has the Blue Devils in first place in the conference and they have already beaten Sacred Heart, the team that was picked to win the conference, by 17.
While CCSUâ€™s conference record has remained perfect, the teamâ€™s overall record is just 7-10. Things have been going well lately for the Blue Devils, but that hasnâ€™t always been the case this season. The team did face a very difficult non-conference schedule, including three ACC schools (Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Boston College) and a Big East school (Seton Hall), going a collective 0-4 against those bigger schools. The Blue Devils took Seton Hall to overtime earlier this season, but all of that losing could have been tough for them to handle considering how young this yearâ€™s team is.
Instead though, it has prepared the team for conference play and the players seem to be peaking at the right time.
â€śObviously it was frustrating playing against tough teams and we didnâ€™t get as many wins as we thought we should have,â€ť sophomore forward Andi Lydon said. â€śEven the teams that we thought were beatable, we didnâ€™t play as well as we would have liked. Looking back though, that definitely helped us with the tougher competition. We knew coming into the conference we were going to be playing against teams that were more our caliber so I think that was a good way to start our season and we are now using that to beat these conference teams.â€ť
In hindsight, playing as difficult a schedule as CCSU did seems to have been the right decision considering how well the team is playing now that the level of competition has been lowered a little bit. But during that tough non-conference stretch, head coach Beryl Piper was unsure how the team would handle it.
â€śIt was rough,â€ť Piper said. â€śWe played a lot of ACC teams and we are very young. If you are older itâ€™s a little bit easier, but we donâ€™t have that luxury. It was hard for our kids to understand some of the things we are trying to do, that we struggled doing, against those teams, so it made it difficult.
â€śWe played Seton Hall close and that was exciting for the kids, but we had a couple of games mixed in there where we really struggled and it was hard to keep the kids emotionally in the right frame of mind. Luckily for us, we know itâ€™s so much about what we do in conference play so we just kept working and the kids kept working hard every day even when we were getting our butts whooped and I think thatâ€™s what has gotten us to this point.â€ť
Despite Piper having her doubts along the way, the team has clearly come through the struggles just fine. Still though, she doesnâ€™t know just how beneficial playing that tough schedule was or will be down the road.
â€śI think the mindset of the kids to not get overly devastated by the losses and by them coming to practice the next day with a clear mind thinking this is a new day and just trying to get better, that was helpful,â€ť Piper said. â€śBut we still have to go on the road and prove we can win consistently there.â€ť
The team is feeling good right now and deservedly so considering it has won six straight games. But the one thing going through the struggles it did in the non-conference ensured, is that this team wonâ€™t take anyone for granted.
â€śThe girls are very excited,â€ť Piper said. â€śItâ€™s good that they have a really positive outlook, but we talked before the [Farleigh Dickinson] game that they need to have that chip on their shoulder no matter who we are playing against. We canâ€™t look passed teams and we canâ€™t think that just because we show up we are going to win.
â€śItâ€™s so much better to get Wâ€™s than it is to get losses. I mean those losses kill you day after day, but everyone is feeling pretty confident in themselves. We know what itâ€™s like to lose consistently this season so we want to keep the wins going and keep that good feeling we all have right now.â€ť
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org