In a season marred by injuries, constant lineup changes, the dismissal of senior Miranda Tate and a cut down in weekly practices due to sanctions imposed by the NCAA last spring, the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team’s 8-22 season was not exactly what was expected.
But first-year EMU coach Tory Verdi said he sees the disappointment as a sign of better things to come.
“Obviously I did not take this job to go 8-22,” Verdi said. “I took this job to compete for the division and the Mid-American Conference championship. Those are my goals and expectations, but unfortunately we lost Amber [Bogard] and Olivia [Fouty] for the season and they were supposed to be our starting post players.”
Verdi also addressed the Tate situation.
“The dismissal of Miranda Tate hurt us from a production standpoint, but in the end it made us a stronger team and I was able to let our team know what is expected,” Verdi said. “We are building something special, but players on the team must know what is expected.”
Junior Desyree Thomas’ role changed drastically, as she went from a pass-only point guard to an all-around force on the court and became more aggressive offensively by going to the rim and crashing the boards more often.
“Desyree is a kid who averaged two points a game last season and was there to advance the ball up the floor and pass it off to Tavelyn [James],” Verdi said. “This year, Desyree was our catalyst and our hardest worker. There is a lot to be said about that and with ‘Dez,’ I don’t have to coach effort because she brings it every single day.
Another player whose season was affected by injuries is junior Natachia Watkins, but on the court you could never tell.
“Natachia was never healthy for us this season; she came off of hip surgery last year and did not do anything for the entire summer,” Verdi said. “It was October when she was cleared and jumped right into the season. She was a kid that was voted first-team All-MAC in the preseason, but was only at 65 percent the whole season.”
The campaign for the Eagles started off on the right foot as they defeated the Northeastern University Huskies in a nail-biter, 50-47, on Nov. 11, 2012 at the Convocation Center.
EMU then went on an eight-game losing streak headlined by the loss of junior Olivia Fouty to a season-ending knee injury in a practice before the South Dakota State University game.
Fouty, who played in only seven games, received a medical redshirt from the NCAA, which grants her an extra year of eligibility.
The team snapped its eight-game losing streak Dec. 15, when it defeated the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos, 74-69.
When it appeared things were starting to get back on track, the Eagles lost both games in the Tulane Holiday Tournament in New Orleans to Tulane University and the University of Mississippi.
On Jan. 2, redshirt senior and leading scorer Tate was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules, and in a press release from the same day the university said it would make no further comment on the matter.
Tate’s dismissal, coupled with Fouty’s knee injury, shortened EMU’s rotation and a combined 23.6 points per game was gone within a one-month stretch.
In MAC play, the Eagles went 6-10, and most notably swept the Western Michigan University Broncos in the regular season.
The first meeting between the two teams was freshman Bianca Cage’s coming-out party, as she scored 25, on 10-of-16 shooting, to go along with 5-of-10 from three-point range.
The Eagles’ season came to a close in the MAC tournament March 9 when the team fell to the Broncos, 80-72, at the Convocation Center.
From a NCAA Tournament appearance last spring under former coach Anne Marie Gilbert to not making a postseason appearance this season, you would think it is a disappointment for Verdi, but he sees it from a different perspective.
“The future is bright because we have an unbelievable recruiting class coming in, and we will have the opportunity to work with them,” Verdi said. “At the end of the day, we feel as if we will be able to put a team out on the floor that will compete for a division title.”
Freshman Shannise Heady, who is a transfer from Seton Hall and will not be eligible to play until winter semester, headlines next season’s recruiting class with five other players who have signed with the Eagles.