Niagara Gazette — Whenever Kendra Faustin noticed her players trudging through preseason practices and conditioning sessions, she only need to say one thing:
The Niagara women’s basketball team got stronger as the season went on last winter, evidenced most in a pair of losses to six-time Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Marist in which they wilted at the very end. The Purple Eagles lost in double overtime at home against the Red Foxes on the final weekend of the regular season, then again in the MAAC tournament semifinals. In the latter loss, they were outscored 16-2 during the extra period.
“We make reference to overtime a lot, and everybody knows what it means,” Faustin said. “We don’t need to say anything about the MAAC tournament. We just know that when we are exhausted and it really matters, we’re going to get through it by focusing on the things that got us there.”
The Purple Eagles, who only lost one key contributor (Ali Morris) from last year’s team have been picked to finish second in the MAAC this year, behind Marist. It’s the highest the team has ever placed in the preseason coaches poll.
“We’ve talked about as a group that a preseason picking doesn’t mean very much,” junior center Lauren Gatto said. “We have to come out there and prove what we are about, what we do and how we do it.
“We were really happy with the way we finished last year, even if it didn’t turn out exactly the way we would’ve liked in the tournament. But we want to make sure we build off that and not get complacent, keep pushing.”
Faustin has been able to use the lofty expectations as a motivational tool, as well.
“If we’re having a bad practice, I’ll say, ‘All of the sudden we don’t think we have to practice hard because people think we’re finishing second?’”