By CHRIS MARKHAM
Bringing a team together and keeping them focused on a common goal is often the top priority for a head coach of any sport and is frequently also the most difficult task to accomplish.
This is exactly what head women’s basketball coach at the University of Mary Washington Deena Applebury has been able to do up to this point in the 2014-2015 season. As a result, the Eagles currently sit at second place in the Capital Athletic Conference and are one game behind no. 18 Salisbury University in national rankings.
“[Applebury] keeps us focused by reminding us we have to go day by day, we can’t look past any opponent and we need to focus on the game at hand and not look weeks ahead,” said sophomore captain Brianne Comden. “She keeps reminding us that we all have to have the same goal to achieve it, and we all have to be on board, not just some of us.”
Since a tough overtime loss at home against Washington & Lee back in November to drop the Eagles to a 2-2 overall record, UMW has gone 9-2, inducing 5-1 in their last six games. The Eagles’ lone defeat against conference opponents came at the hands of the aforementioned Seagulls of Salisbury in a 69-63 loss.
“It was upsetting and frustrating because we know we should have won,” Comden said. “But we took out of it that we can and could beat a nationally ranked team. We did a lot of good things in the game but also didn’t capitalize on some big things.”
Not only have the Eagles been winning on a consistent basis, but they are also demolishing their opponents in the process. In the Eagles’ 11 wins of the season, they have outscored their opponents by an average of 24.8 points per game.
“We know that we can beat teams and no team we play is bad, we just don’t look back once we start,” Comden said. “It’s the teamwork and our team idea of unity that gets us through each game.”
UMW has been getting it done on the defensive end, proving themselves to be one of the most dominant defensive teams in the conference. The Eagles lead the CAC in many major statistical categories, including points allowed per game, at 51.9 points per game, and opponent’s field goal percentage, 32.7 percent.
On the offensive end, the Eagles have been coming at their opponents with a well-balanced attack, with two players averaging double figures. UMW has also had five different players lead the team in points in their wins this season. Comden, who was recently named the Wagner Wealth Management Athlete of the Month for the month of December, leads the Eagles on the season with a scoring average of 12.3 points per game.
“We just need to keep working on our team defense and continue growing on offense and remember at the end of the day that we have to play our game and not worry about anything else,” Comden said.
By her side is her running-mate, senior Claire Haeuptle, who is averaging 11.1 points per game and shooting a blistering 34.2 percent for three-point land.
Besides offense and defense, there is a third critical element to the success of a basketball team: chemistry; and according to Comden, the Eagles have plenty of it.
“We do everything together,” Comden said. “We are rarely apart and you can see how the chemistry off the court helps on the court because we all play together.”
After their matchup with Christopher Newport University Wednesday, the Eagles will be back at home against York College (Pennsylvania) on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 1 p.m., looking to improve upon their already impressive record.