There is a youth movement underway for the Navy women’s basketball team and there is indeed reason to be optimistic about the future. However, two games into the season it’s obvious there are going to be some growing pains.
Navy dropped its season opener at William & Mary, 79-64, then traveled to Colorado Springs and was beaten soundly by Air Force, 90-50.
The Midshipmen started three freshmen in both games and were counting on a fourth, Toni Paphronis, to log a lot of minutes at point guard. Unfortunately, Paphronis suffered what appears to be a significant knee injury in the first quarter of the opener, and Navy has yet to recover.
It’s a very small sample size, but with Paphronis running the offense Navy outscored William & Mary 24-16. Since then, the Mids have been outscored, 153-90.
Although Navy is 0-2, coach Tim Taylor is very excited about what he considers to be his “first real recruiting class” since being named head coach in 2020 amidst the pandemic.
“This is a very talented freshman class. They are very long, athletic and very competitive and they all bring something different to the program,” Taylor said.
Asked if he was hopeful that one or more of the plebes could replace honorable mention All-American Jennifer Coleman, Taylor said he was looking at the bigger picture.
“I don’t think you replace Jennifer Coleman, and we didn’t come into this thinking of replacing her,” he said. “We came in thinking we want to build the best team we can. We went after size and length and things like that which we haven’t had here in the past.”
An impressive group of plebes includes guard Maren Louridas, who has shown the ability to get to the basket while scoring in double figures in both games, including a team-high 13 points against Air Force.
At center, Taylor likes what he has seen so far out of 6-foot-4 freshman Kate Samson.
“Kate is a great passer and will be a big force if we can get the ball down low to her,” Taylor said.
According to Taylor, one of Samson’s primary missions is to do battle with opponents under the basket, which will hopefully continue to free up junior guard Sydne Watts to be more of a scoring threat. That strategy worked well against William & Mary as Watts scored a career-high 28 points in the contest.
“Sydne is going to benefit from other people. She’s playing a more natural wing spot because we have some size,” Taylor said. “It’s really hard to guard her because she can rise above people … she can create. She’s put a lot of time and work into it.”
Ball handling is definitely going to be a priority once the Mids return to practice as the team has committed a staggering 57 turnovers in two games.
“We have to be able to take care of the basketball. We were trying to play really fast as opposed to last year when we walked the ball up, but we are not going to win many games turning it over like that,” Taylor said.
One player Taylor is hoping will assert themselves and bring some stability to the point guard position is senior Mimi Schrader.
“We had that meeting with four of our players and said somebody needs to fill that point guard role. You hope our senior steps up and takes charge of that. We hope Mimi does it because she has the experience.”
One role Taylor knows Schrader will succeed in is that of team captain.
“Mimi is a great leader. She takes care of her teammates and tries to make sure they are doing all the right things. It’s a lot of work especially when you have eight plebes on the team.”
Schrader and the rest of the returning players have welcomed the large plebe class into the program and everyone is working together to build some chemistry and cohesion.
“The plebes have brought a ton of energy to the program. They came in and were ready to work from day one,” Schrader said. “I’m definitely the old one who is passing down the knowledge. It’s my goal to pass down as much as I know.”
Schrader, who hopes to find out Thursday during service selection if her dream of becoming a Navy pilot will be a reality, expects there will be ups and downs during the season, but echoed her coach’s favorite mantra.
“We want to be better in March than we are now,” she said.
After posting a 10-21 record in 2021-22, Navy has been picked to finish last in the Patriot League this season.