The first two seasons of the Carol Ross era were exciting ones as the Lady Rebels returned to the NCAA Tournament field both seasons. Last year, however, the team slipped a bit and fell back to the NIT. Ross believes this year's team has the potential to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2007.
But in looking back to last season, she says it isn't as easy as pointing out just a couple of things that might have made a difference. There may have been several.
"We all like to simplify things down to this was the problem or that was the problem. But if you've been in sports that long, it's usually not that simple," she said. "It's not usually just one thing, it's more than one. However, one thing was we got them ready to go right out of the gate. My teams usually stumble out of the gate. But I think we were focused on not getting buried early (with a tough schedule in Nov. and Dec.). We needed to have a good start. We put a lot of energy into the early part of our non-conference schedule. And we weren't that deep. We played seven players, maybe eight on a good night. We went into league play a little tired. But we really didn't adjust our schedule much. I may adjust my intensity. But I don't want to go too far that way."
As for 2006-07, Ross says once again the challenge is to put all the pieces of the puzzle together to make for a winning situation.
"This is a new team, a different team. I'll have to find out what fits this team," she said. "It's always a juggle. You're always a win or two away from the NCAA or a win or two away from the NIT. Since we've been here, there's not been a whole lot of difference. The first year we won a couple of double overtime games. So you're never as good or as bad as you think. But you always shoot for championships. That's what we want our teams to think and believe."
Ross says, as always, the seniors will be important to whatever this team ultimately achieves.
"The seniors are like a team within the team," she said of Armintie Price, Ashley Awkward, and Jada Mincy. "Their strengths are different. That's what makes them strong. Armintie Price will lead by example. She will bust her fanny at practice. She's going to be fired up. She's going to perform on gameday when the lights are on. Ashley Awkward is going to be very mindful of her teammates. She's going to be very aware when somebody needs picking up. She's got the ability to be the player they can lean on when things aren't going so well. Then you've got Jada Mincy. She's the nurturing, straight-shooter type. Nothing's more powerful than peer pressure. This team has positive peer pressure in that locker room. These seniors have gone through three years of different experiences. They have experience and enthusiasm in common. They bring it and they love it and they have high expectations."
Just like their head coach.
Ross looks forward to year four at Ole Miss
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