A Montclair State Redhawk dribbles a ball up court. She makes her first two shots, then only misses her third by inches. She takes the ball again, this time with the knowledge of how to make it in. She swishes her next shot and never looks back. That is the story so far for the nine and one 2017-2018 Montclair State Women’s Basketball team.
Starting out the season with one win and one loss, the Red Hawks seem to have found the momentum that they needed. Currently on a seven-game winning streak, the Red Hawks are on a warpath, wiping out multiple NJAC conference opponents.
Entering the current season, the Red Hawks have tallied up one-hundred thirty-six wins and only sixteen losses in the past five NJAC Championship runs and have made multiple trips to the NCAA tournament with a Final Four appearance in 2015. On the success of the team so far, Coach Harvey expressed, “We have enjoyed a lot of success in the NJAC over the past 5 years. However, the NJAC is a very tough league. Anyone can beat anyone, on a given night. We have to be prepared for each game as it comes and don’t take any games for granted.”.
With a great amount of success that the program has had, the credit falls to not only the players, but also to the coaching staff. When asked about what is the leading cause for Montclair State’s current success, Harvey was able to narrow the group down to two things. “Team Culture & People. We (the players and coaches) have created a culture of success here at Montclair State. We know how to win games and work as a good to accomplish that goal. Our players are dedicated, hard-working, smart, and talented people. We recruit, not only talented athletes, but quality individuals who are committed to doing things the right way… on and off the court.” With a steady flow of veteran presence and leadership throughout the years of success, it is easy to understand why Coach Harvey would credit the players for their dedication to the system in place.
With the success that the women’s team is having, there are growing expectations that are placed on the team. With said expectations, the team could feel the “outside pressure” to live up to those expectations. Winning five consecutive NJAC championships, there is a standard of winning that is expected by the team. Melissa Tobie, a member of multiple NJAC Championship teams from 2011 to 2015, does not believe that there is pressure that is placed on the team. “They have two veteran starters on their team (Kate Tobie & Katie Sire), I do not see why that the team cannot make a run if they keep improving,” Tobie said, in regard to the lack of pressure that the current team faces.
Having new faces to any program can be difficult for continued success, however, Harvey has found a way to continue with the success, as well as providing some fun for the athletes coming in. “Having a lot of new faces creates a lot of teaching…both for captains and coaches… it isn’t always easy…. but our ‘new faces’ are amazing, dedicated, and really hard working. There is a lot of joy in seeing them process in the program, begin to understand how we like to play basketball, and really start to watch it all come together. The coaching staff, captains, and returners have all played a role in welcoming and teaching the new players. And our new players have been on board since Day 1. They bought in from the first moment they walked on to campus. They get better every day and I am so proud of them,” explained Harvey.
With many new faces to the program, the spotlight turns to them for the future of the program. Sophomore Alex McKinnon, hopes to continue the success. “I think that everyone hopes and wants to keep the championship title, for ourselves and for the girls who have captured the titles in the past… everyone hopes to live up to these expectations, and we do that by working hard in practice every day and playing our best during games. Hopefully from that hard work success can follow,” said McKinnon.
When there is a period of success for a team, pressure is created for the team to either continue or crumble. Harvey elaborated on whether she believes that there is pressure being placed on the team, “Yes, there is always bit of pressure to maintain the program’s success. But I have to say, much of it is the pressure that I put on myself. We have won a lot and people expect to win. But I think it is all about how we use that pressure.” While she believes that this contributes to creating pressure, what makes this different is that Harvey uses the pressure she creates as motivation to keep forging on. “We try to use it to help us fuel our fire, work-ethic, and drive to always want to be better.”
If there is pressure that has been levied onto the team, McKinnon is one to believe that the team has done well so far, in part due to Coach Harvey’s methods. Speaking about how the team deals with pressure to keep living up to the success, McKinnon explained, “Everyone is handling themselves very well this season. We have a group of girls and coaches who have a great work ethic and who all strive for success every day. I think sticking together will allow us to handle any pressure or challenging situation the year brings.”
Whether there is another NJAC Championship added to the program or not, the stage has been set for continued success and it is up to new players such as McKinnon to lead the future of the program
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