Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UM searches for consistency, conference wins

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Finishing a season six games under .500 in a 28-game schedule won’t typically breed high expectations for the following year. Don’t tell that to UMass coach Marnie Dacko and rest of the Massachusetts women’s basketball team though.

The Minutewomen ended strong last year – winning eight of their final 12 games – and despite the 11-17 record in 2005-06, UMass expected to be a serious threat in the Atlantic 10 this season.

But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. The recent struggles of the Minutewomen – they’ve dropped seven of their last 10 contests. That has forced the team to win all five of their remaining games if they wish to improve their conference record for the third consecutive season.

“We were definitely really excited about the season,” junior captain Kate Mills said. “We felt as though we were going to make it far in the Atlantic 10. We still feel that way and we have a lot of confidence in our team.”

“Our goal this season was to be better than a year ago,” Dacko said. “We wanted to help our kids mature and be able to build as we move on. We wanted to get better and better and just improve with each game.”

Dacko’s wishes came to fruition when the Minutewomen enjoyed their best start since the 1988-89 campaign, matching that season’s 5-0 pace. The Maroon and White have started this year 9-2 overall, but since then they’ve dropped a number of close games to drop them to 13-11 entering tonight’s game against Rhode Island.

Despite the recent slide, Dacko believes that they are capable of making a run in the Atlantic 10 – for the rest of the regular season and for the conference tournament.

“I’m still happy with the team’s performance and their effort in practice,” Dacko said. “I think we’re still improving and we’re going to get better and better. I don’t think by any means we’ve reached our peak.”

After starting the season off so well, expectations for the Minutewomen in conference play went up, but the players have managed to stay positive in spite of their recent struggles.

“We came out really strong, so we would have hoped to keep that up all season,” junior guard Pam Rosanio said. “But although we’ve gone up and down we’re still staying positive. We’re just looking to win our next few games.”

“I’m not disappointed with where the team is right now,” Dacko said. “I think that no player wants to go out and have a poor performance and nobody wants to miss shots. We just have to manage to get it done and play through it.”

The Minutewomen have lost a number of close games, and if just a few of those turned out differently, the Maroon and White could have found itself near the top of the A-10.

“When you look at six of the 11 games we’ve lost, we were ahead with four minutes to go in the game,” Dacko said. “We have to learn how to get over that. We have young point guards, and when you have a point guard that manages the ball 90 percent of the time, they have to make good decisions.”

With a season of inconsistency, it can be confusing to figure the Minutewomen out. Are they more like the team that started off 9-2, or are they the team that has only won three of their last 10 games? Coach Dacko thinks she has the answer.

“I think right now the best reflection of the team is where we started in the beginning,” she said. “What happened was we were winning and then we hit a road block. When that happens, disappointment and maybe a lack of confidence will come.”

“I think we’re capable of being one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10,” she added. “We just need to keep improving, get stronger as a unit and get better statistics and effort from the bench.”

Dacko’s expectation of being a strong team within the conference is a sentiment that is echoed by her players.

“We still have high expectations for our team,” Mills said. “We still think we’re one of the best teams in the conference, so we just want to be as successful as possible the rest of the season.”

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]

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