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American Today


Women’s Basketball Focuses on Consistency, Improvement

By Mike Unger

Photo: Lisa Strack

Lisa Strack leads AU in scoring and rebounding. (Photo courtesy of AU Athletics)

Momentum. Patriot League basketball teams crave it heading into the season-ending winner-take-all conference tournament. They sweat and claw the rest of the year to build it.

Following a double digit win at Troy on December 11, the American University women’s basketball team sits at 6-4. But Coach Matt Corkery knows there’s plenty to work on if his team is to achieve its goal: to be playing its best basketball in March.

“I would say we’re really looking for consistency,” he said of his team’s start. “We’ve played some of our better games against the good competition, but you’ve got to bring that level of play night in and night out when you take the court.”

The Eagles opened the season with an impressive victory at George Mason, which subsequently reeled off six wins. AU’s early season slate featured a host of close games including two overtime losses at home and two tight wins in California.

“We have to get better executing in late-game situations,” Corkery said. “We’ve had opportunities we didn’t take advantage of with a couple of possessions or making free throws. If you don’t execute well you’ve got to learn from that, then you’ve got to move past it.”

Ensuring that her team does just that is one of senior guard Lisa Strack’s responsibilities. A second-team All-Patriot League selection last year, Strack leads the Eagles in both scoring and rebounding.

“We rely on her to do so many things well,” Corkery said. “She’s one of our better defenders, she’s one of our assist leaders. She never takes a possession off.”

Strack shares captainship with sophomore point guard Alexis Dobbs, whose ball handling and passing are keys to AU’s offensive continuity. Also important on both ends of the floor is sophomore Geleisa George, whose contributions don’t always show up on the stat sheet.

“She’s really gaining confidence and emerging,” Corkery said. “She makes good decisions on offense with her shot selection, she’s been one of our best rebounders. She brings a lot of energy and makes a lot of hustle plays.”

Diving on the floor for a loose ball, tipping a rebound to a teammate, taking a charge. These are the kinds of blue collar plays that bring teams together, creating what Corkery believes is the most important ingredient for late-season success.

“Chemistry is a must,” he said. “How players are interacting with each other, accepting their roles and buying into what the team needs them to do—all of those things go into your cohesion and the team dynamic, and to me that shows up late in the year. A lot of it has to come from within, but we try to create an environment of positive communication.”

That started in the summer, when Corkery asked each of his players to read the 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player by John C. Maxwell. In and out of the gym he’s discussed the book with his players in hopes of conveying principles like dependability, enthusiasm, and selflessness (three of Maxwell’s 17).

Patriot League play tips off January 7 (AU is at Colgate) and culminates March 10 with the crowning of the league champion, likely the only conference team that will qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

If all goes according to plan, that’s precisely when AU will be peaking.

“There’s no substitute for playing at a high level and experiencing success as a team,” Corkery said. “That’s how you gain momentum.”