Finally, something to celebrate.
Having endured a 16-game losing streak to open the season, Navy women’s basketball finally broke into the win column Saturday with a 63-43 victory over Patriot League foe Loyola-Maryland.
Navy (1-16, 1-5) put together such a solid outing that it could be a sign there could be more wins soon.
“The feeling is indescribable. I am so proud of me and my teammates,” said freshman guard Maren Louridas, who led Navy with 24 points. “We’ve worked hard every day to put in the effort to get better. This is as good as we’ve played.”
Not only did the Mids win their first game, but they did so going away — turning a 31-20 halftime lead into a 20-point rout.
“It was a great feeling to look at the scoreboard and to see we had won by 20 points,” Louridas said. “This is us at our best. We need to keep it rolling.”
Navy has overcome a lot during the first half of its season. Four key players were lost to injury, including top senior Lindsay Llewelyn, who missed the first 15 games recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, but recently returned. The Mids also lost freshman Toni Papahronis, who was injured in the first quarter of the first game. Also suffering season-ending injuries were freshman Shannon Clarke and senior Imani Edmonds.
“We’ve lost four kids that we were planning to play major minutes,” third-year head coach Tim Taylor said. “I feel good for the kids to win today, but it won’t change our approach to coaching. We’ll celebrate, then go back to doing the same thing we’ve been doing. We haven’t been focused on the losing, but on getting better each game.”
Taylor acknowledged the long winless stretch to start the season has been difficult. He cited youth and inexperience as factors, but has seen steady improvement in practice and during games.
“This team has continued to believe and continued to get better. They’re putting in the hard work day-in, day-out. We show up to practice, regardless of our record; you wouldn’t know we were 0-16 coming into today,” Taylor said.
Louridas shot 9-for-17 from the floor with five 3-pointers, but was not alone. Navy also got big games from juniors Sydne Watts (16 points) and Morganne Andrews (11 rebounds). Taylor also praised plebes Gia Pissott and Morgan Demos for their play off the bench. He noted that Llewelyn’s return improves the team.
“She allows me to give some of the players a break so they can get some rest and not get tired,” Taylor said. “She also gives us a lift with her defensive play and her leadership.”
Llewelyn said she was glad to be back on the court after watching her teammates struggle. She played 28 minutes against Lafayette in her first game of the season and 19 minutes in Saturday’s win.
“It feels great to be back with my teammates. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe, It was tough being on the bench and feeling like there was nothing I could do to help,” said Llewelyn, who started 23 games last season. “It was a real challenge to sit on the bench and watch.”
The Midshipmen didn’t play like a winless team. A 12-0 first-quarter run put the Mids ahead for good. Louridas scored 16 points in the first half as they held an 11-point lead. They never led by less than nine the rest of the game.
A key point in the game came when Loyola cut the lead to nine points midway through the third period. Navy, which has led in the third quarter many times this season only to lose the lead, held on this time and pushed the margin back up to 14 points to end the quarter.
“When we struggled in the third quarter, we committed six turnovers in a row. In the past, we would have folded. We didn’t today. That was the difference,” Taylor said. “We’ve given up runs of 20-0, 16-0 in games. We didn’t do that this time.”
Navy, in fact, outscored Loyola by 7-2 to close the quarter and by 27-16 to pull away at the end.
“The game isn’t over until the clock runs out. We’ve had games where we’ve led and the other team has come back to win,” said Watts. “A win isn’t a win until there’s nothing but zeroes [on the clock].”
Watts said the team was confident that a win was coming soon.
“We felt like we were going to win today,” she said. “The pieces all came together at once.”
Two other factors may have played a role in lifting the team’s spirits. One was the presence of Navy’s all-time leading scorer Jade Geif, who had her jersey number retired at halftime. The second was the support of the boisterous home crowd.
“Today was special with Jade’s ceremony and our alumni in town,” Taylor said. “To have this type of performance on this day, it’s extremely memorable. You want to create memories for your kids. You want to give them things to talk about in 10 years.”
Louridas said the team had discussed playing their best to impress.
“In our locker room before the game we talked about playing hard for the alums and for Jade,” she said. “Their history and their support was special to us.
“The support of the crowd was also special. The fans and the administration have been behind us the whole time despite our record.”