Belmont coach Cameron Newbauer and the women’s basketball team learned an important lesson during their first season together, one they hope to carry over into the 2014-15 season.
“It taught us that with perseverance and patience, the process pays off. We stuck with the process and our personal expectation to go as hard as we can every day,” said Newbauer. “And I think that’s what we’re trying to do this year.”
While the team started off slowly last season, Belmont fought its way through a tough Ohio Valley Conference schedule to win its division. The Bruins eventually ended a seven-year drought with their first conference championship appearance since 2007.
“Even though at the beginning of the season we had tough games, we still bought into our process and how we do things. Come conference play, we had that foundation. We knew what we had to go and just focused,” said senior guard Katie Carroll.
This season, Carroll is one of Belmont’s five returning starters and also one of seven seniors. The senior class set one goal to accomplish for itself and hopes to help the program beyond its final year.
“We have the phrase ‘we want to leave a legacy.’ Not necessarily winning games, but we want to come out as a senior class every day with positivity and hard work,” said senior guard Taylor Mills. “Set a tradition for the Belmont program for kids who come in, regardless of how this season goes. It’s a culture we want to leave behind.”
Newbauer said the seniors have done a great job of leading the team on and off the court with their effort and high-level energy.
“It’s exciting about where they’re trying to take us. It’s their time. They’ve built a legacy that began here and hopefully they can continue building off it,” he said.
The class will have plenty of opportunities to make its mark on the program as this year’s schedule is one of the toughest in recent years.
Key non-conference match ups include three games against Southeastern Conference opponents and one opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The games against Georgia and Louisville will be a special occasion for Newbauer, who started his women’s basketball career with the Bulldogs and coached the Cardinals prior to his first season at Belmont.
“It’ll be really cool because that’s where my roots of women’s basketball stems from. It’s just really neat environments to get to go coach in those places,” he said. “Now I get to bring a team there and compete against them. It’ll be a special moment for us.”
As the Bruins gear toward the conference season, Belmont was selected as the preseason favorite to win the OVC as voted on by media members, coaches and sport information directors.
Carroll said the team has made it a challenge to make sure it doesn’t get complacent with the preseason hype.
“We have to prepare the same way we would if we were picked last or picked first,” she said. “You saw it last year in our conference. Anyone can win and beat anyone on any given night.”
Thirteen letterwinners return from last year’s team while the Bruins also add three eligible newcomers.
“Each person brings intangibles to us and the team. It provides us not only with depth, but a variety of depth,” said Newbauer.
Belmont has the most experience at the guard position, led by Carroll, Mills and fellow seniors Jordyn Luffman-Hartsfield and Adrienne Tarrence.
Luffman-Hartsfield led the Bruins with 459 total points, averaging 14.3 points per game. The All-OVC First Team honoree recorded nine double-doubles and shot perfectly from the free throw line in 13 games.
The Bruins will continue to rely on the physical presence of Frankie Joubran at the forward position. Joubran grabbed a team-high 245 total rebounds including 183 defensive rebounds.
Sophomore Lauren Thompson, senior Torie Vaught and junior Katherine Zander round out Belmont’s options at forward.
Center is the only position where Belmont lacks numbers but will look to Blair Bryce for support. The 6-foot-5 inch senior from Texas started in 22 games for the Bruins and pulled down 16 rebounds in the conference tournament last season.
Belmont opens up the 2014-15 season on the road Friday as they travel to Memorial Gym for a showdown against Vanderbilt.