NORFOLK -- There are easier places to build a winning women's basketball program than the Naval Academy.
The school has exacting academic standards -- less than 7 percent of those who apply for admission are accepted -- and in spite of the trend of more women entering the military, the academy is still nearly 80 percent male.
And when your four years at Navy are done, you become an officer and are required to spend five years on active duty.
Yet, coach Stefanie Pemper has managed to build a program that has become dominant in the Patriot League, winning three consecutive tournament titles before this season. Although the Mids lost in the conference semifinals last week, they were regular-season champions.
They enter tonight's Women's National Invitation Tournament game at 7 tonight at Old Dominion with a 24-7 record and a No. 64 ranking in the RPI.
ODU (17-15), which made the WNIT with a late-season run -- the Lady Monarchs won eight of their last 11 -- is No. 130 in the RPI.
Pemper was 235-48 in a decade as the head coach at Division III Bowdoin College before coming to Navy, where she is 116-74 in six seasons. She has won with outstanding students who also happen to be pretty good basketball players.
Audrey Bauer, a 6-foot senior forward who averages 9.5 points and 5.1 rebounds, is an honor student who will report for duty to the destroyer Winston Churchill in Norfolk after she graduates.
Three of her teammates, including Kara Pollinger, the team's leading scorer, plan to become Naval aviators. Senior Jade Geif, who averages 12.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, will become an officer in the Marines.
ODU coach Karen Barefoot said she and Pemper became friends about a decade ago.
"We've talked a lot on the recruiting trail," Barefoot said. "She's really a good person and has done an outstanding job."
Barefoot said she and Pemper have talked about a Navy-ODU series. "My dream is playing Navy in Norfolk on an aircraft carrier," Barefoot said.
Notes: ODU guard Galaisha Goodhope, who bruised a knee in the regular-season finale against East Carolina, is having an MRI this morning. She played in two games in the Conference USA tournament. The MRI is precautionary, Barefoot said.... Navy freshman Ashanti Kennedy, who has had limited playing time this season, is from Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia Beach. Current Cape Henry senior Bianca Roach, a 5-7 all-state private schools pick, has committed to Navy.... Tickets are $7 for general admission.