Finishing at the top of the regular season standings. Winning the conference tournament. Advancing to the postseason for the 13th straight year.
Those are all standards the Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team strives for, but you won’t hear any of the players or coaches talking about them. By design, the 2014-15 team has no goals.
“Yeah, that’s true,” fourth-year head coach Cara Consuegra said with a snicker. “We’ve changed our perspective of things. … We want to focus on the process. When you have goals you focus on the outcome.
“Sometimes you can’t control the outcome. What you can do is control your every day. We want to show up every day and be a little better than we were yesterday. If we can do that, where we’ll be in March will take care of itself.”
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With the graduation of its top post player and perhaps the best point guard in program history, Charlotte will have a new look to match its new attitude this year. Consuegra feels a new offense, a new defense, and some balance and depth in the lineup will keep the 49ers competitive.
Charlotte finished 2013-14 with a 15-16 overall record and its 9-7 league record helped the 49ers tie for sixth place in Conference USA. In their preseason poll, the conference coaches picked Charlotte to finish fifth in the 14-team league this year.
The 49ers return three starters: senior guards Hillary Sigmon and Ayanna Holmes, and junior forward Kira Gordon. Sophomore guard Lefty Webster, Charlotte’s first player off the bench in 2013-14, was named one of eight players to the preseason All-Conference USA team.
“We are small but we like to run,” said Webster. “We use our athleticism. Other teams get tired.”
Charlotte will have to find replacements for forward Gabby Tyler and point guard Ny Hammonds. Tyler led the team in scoring (12.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg). Hammonds finished her career as the program’s all-time assist leader and is now playing professionally in Lithuania.
To offset the losses, Consuegra finds comfort in her team’s daily effort, its ability to run the court, and a line-up that includes the deepest group of guards she’s ever coached. A new offense and a new defense she’s installed are both designed to make use of those advantages.
“The offense has a lot of circle rotation and movement,” said Gordon. “It should be pretty tricky for the defenses to guard us. I’m excited.”
Early results have been good. In the 49ers’ season-opening win at Liberty on Nov. 14, the guards scored 59 of the team’s 79 points. Charlotte made 13 of 20 three-point attempts against the Flames.
The 49ers are shifting away from being a predominantly man-to-man defensive team and will employ a 2-3 zone in which the guards will be extra active up top.
The team’s depth at guard includes sophomore Ciara Gregory, and freshmen Griffin Dempsey and Amaya Ransom. Complementing Gordon in the post will be junior Alexis Alexander, senior captain Olivia Rankin, and sophomore Kenya Olley.
During the off-season, Consuegra invited a representative of a mental training company to address the team. He de-emphasized goals and directed players to focus on what they could control on a daily basis.
“Of course we want to make it to the NCAA tournament,” said Gordon. “We want to win a Conference USA tournament. I feel like we’re closer to that compared to last year. We come to practice more energized and want to get better every day.”
Charlotte will be at the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge Mayan Tournament over Thanksgiving. The 49ers open with Montana on Thanksgiving Day, followed by matchups with Wake Forest and Princeton on Friday and Saturday.
Charlotte’s volleyball team clinched a spot in its conference tournament for the first time since 2010. The 49ers placed eighth in the C-USA standings securing the final spot in the tourney.
Charlotte’s men’s team finished 22nd and the women’s team placed 21st at the C-USA cross country championships in Louisville on Nov. 14. Junior Morgan Richards was the 49ers’ top women’s runner, finishing 80th overall. Junior Ben Sterett also finished 80th, making him Charlotte’s top men’s runner.
Women’s soccer player Martha Thomas was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year. She led Charlotte with 11 goals and had five assists. Thomas was also named to the All-Conference USA Second Team.