Nearly every preseason, baseball experts point to the Atlanta Braves, who have won 12 consecutive National League East championships, as a team that might finally experience a drop-off and have a substandard season. Every season thus far, however, manager Bobby Cox has gotten his players, whatever that year’s roster happens to be, to play as a team and win the division.
Similarly, GW’s women’s basketball endures graduating stars, transfers and injuries every season, yet head coach Joe McKeown has managed to steer his team to five straight Atlantic 10 regular season titles.
Last semester, McKeown expressed concern about the upcoming season, pointing to the team’s seven new players – five of whom are freshmen – just one senior and a grueling early schedule as reasons why this year’s team might not be up to the standards that its predecessors had set.
“You look at our first seven games, and they were against all national powers basically; I just hoped we were still standing by now,” McKeown said following Sunday’s win over Charlotte that clinched the league’s regular season title.
Little did he know that this year’s squad would also be chronically injured and have to beat a top-20 ranked Temple team in Philadelphia and a then-conference-leading Charlotte team in the same weekend if it was going to win the conference.
“We lost (freshman center) Jessica Adair for a month, we just lost (junior guard) Kenan Cole last week for two crucial games against Temple and Charlotte,” McKeown said. “Just having freshmen on the floor against teams like Purdue and Tennessee, you never know if that’s going to deflate you or give you confidence.”
McKeown’s fears were proven unwarranted when sophomore guard Kim Beck stepped up alongside senior forward Jessica Simmonds and assumed a leadership role, which in turn helped the team’s plethora of freshmen mesh with the team quickly.
“This is a really, really young team and we had some tough times, but as a team we overcame a lot of obstacles,” Simmonds said. “I think it took a lot of passion, strength, confidence, courage. Everything that it takes to be a good team.”
For McKeown’s squad, the nitty-gritty, physical play has propelled them to success.
“I wouldn’t say we’re one of the those teams that can just walk on the floor and beat anybody based on just individual play, but we come together and we get it done,” sophomore forward Sarah-Jo Lawrence said. “We’re really close-knit, and we have to be that way.”