When current seniors Tara Booker, Sara Mostafa and Tiana Myers put on their Colonials uniforms for the first time in 2008, they were suiting up for arguably one of the strongest women’s programs in the country.
GW posted double-digit wins for 19 straight seasons under former head coach Joe McKeown. His career record at GW was 441-154, turning the Colonials into a national contender. But when current head coach Mike Bozeman took over, the team’s identity changed – faltering, winning just 14 games over the past two seasons.
The seniors watched their Colonials fall quickly by the wayside. They have yet to catch a glimpse of the successes they were promised, save a 2009 postseason WNIT bid. But as the three enter this season, they’re not discouraged.
“It’s disappointing, yes, because when you sign to go to a top 25 program you know what you expect, you expect to go to the Sweet 16,” Myers, a senior guard, said. “But at the same time, I have no regrets. I think it’s a learning experience. I think everything happens for a reason.”
After six straight seasons of the program traveling to the NCAA tournament prior to the seniors’ arrival, including back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, the Colonials have not advanced past the first round of the A-10 tournament during the seniors’ careers.
“I don’t even think you can put into words the frustration that we had over the past two years,” Myers said. “If you told me…that my sophomore and junior year we would only have six or seven healthy people, I wouldn’t have believed you, because it’s very uncommon. I look at it as a learning experience. It’s yesterday and we’re looking towards tomorrow.”
Booker, Mostafa and Myers were asked to step into a difficult situation from the start. After the Colonials graduated many of their standout players, they needed to assume leadership roles as sophomores, looked to as guides for a young team that saw its roster continually depleted by injury.
The experiences of the seniors shows in their relationships with one another and with their teammates. During practice, joined by fellow senior guard Kristin Aldridge, who transferred into the program last season, all four step up to direct play. Once the final whistle sounds, they break out into smiles, gently mocking the rest of the squad and laughing as they head to the sidelines.
The most experienced members of the team are determined to lead it back to its former heights. Their strong relationship and experience can only help them push GW to success, and the seniors are determined to lead by example – post-practice, as the rest of the team cleared the court, Aldridge remained, running through shooting drills with assistant coach Richard Moore.
“Since we had to take an early leadership role here it prepared us for senior year,” Booker, a senior forward, said. “This year, having played with each other for a couple years, we have that chemistry that we didn’t have before.”
Head coach Mike Bozeman has been outspoken about his desire to revamp his offense this season, and will look to his seniors to lead the way. Booker and Myers have been a reliable source of offensive power for the Colonials in the past, and Bozeman calls Mostafa a “fundamentally sound post player” that he believes can be a cornerstone of GW’s attack. And Aldridge, he said, has emerged as a reliable point guard that can direct the team’s attack.
“People like Sara Mostafa, getting her the looks,” Bozeman said. “Tara Booker, asking her to score and also get the ball to the post, get the ball to the shooters.”
His players agree. It’s their senior year, and they’re ready to make it count.
“Really, the past two years, anything that could go wrong went wrong, so it really just made us that much stronger. We learn that much, and now, we know exactly what not to do,” Mostafa, a senior center, said. “Just everything we’ve been through, we’re sick of losing. We want the championship this year.”
This article appeared in the November 7, 2011 issue of the Hatchet.