Oct. 18, 2005
Cullowhee, N.C. - For the first time since falling in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament nearly seven months ago, the defending Southern Conference tournament champion Western Carolina Lady Catamounts hit the hardwood last Sunday for team instruction. Head coach Kellie Harper has been pleased with what she has seen from her talented, yet youthful, bunch.
"We have been doing a lot of teaching with six new players in the program this year," said Harper. "We want to make sure that we have covered some fundamentals and laid the ground work before progressing into game situations."
After the three-hour drill on Tuesday afternoon on the main floor of the Ramsey Center, the number of practices Harper and the Lady Cats have endured thus far reached three. She commented that each lengthy session, averaging out at three-hours a practice, was "testing the team's mental toughness and focus."
With six newcomers on the court with seven returning players, Harper is very wary of both the youth, and the need to work together.
"We are constantly working on team chemistry. Our players have to realize that everyone on this team must contribute for us to be successful," said Harper. "We are trying to mix our new players in with our returning ones in each group during drills to have some experience on the court. I want our newcomers to learn from the returners - to see how to run an exercise and to know what I'm expecting from it. Often times learning from your peers is easier than learning from your coach."
With the 2005-06 season-opener looming exactly a month on the horizon, Harper is trying to be patiently aggressive with her team.
"It is still early," Harper summed up. "You do not expect to be perfect this time of year, just a few practices in. But, we do realize that we have to get this team ready to play its first game in about a month."
The Lady Catamounts begin their title defense on Saturday, Nov. 12 hosting the Charlotte Stars in an exhibition match at the Ramsey Center. The regular season-opening road swing includes trips to Detroit (Nov. 18) and to Michigan State (Nov. 20), which ended the 2004-05 season as the national runner-up. The Lady Cats will participate in the Florida State Lady Seminole Classic over Thanksgiving (Nov. 26-27) before opening the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, Dec. 3 versus UNC Asheville in the annual Mountain Hoops Classic double-header.