Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Return to glory? ODU must work at it

A year ago at about this time, mighty Tennessee lost its opening game of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's history. The very next day, the Lady Vols were in their gym practicing. And when the team reported for preseason workouts last fall, strength and conditioning coach Heather Mason said the players had worked harder during this offseason than any group in her seven years at UT.

Today, the Lady Vols have a 32-2 record and are two victories away from a return to the Final Four.

At this same point last year, Old Dominion was also reeling, having to watch the NCAAs unfold without them after surrendering the CAA title for the first time in 18 years. Not sure what the Lady Monarchs did the day after their season ended. But when Wendy Larry was asked during the preseason how many of her players paid the offseason price to make sure they didn't come up short again, the coach replied, "Some did, some didn't."

You can talk about injuries, a tough non-conference schedule and a shrinking talent gap among CAA teams all you want. But ever since Larry made that remark, one question has dogged us throughout ODU's less-than-satisfying 19-14, WNIT-bound season.

How badly do these Lady Monarchs want to be great?

Because if the goal truly is recapturing the CAA title and returning to the NCAAs, that process has to start now, when the lights are off and no one is watching. Because if you wait until November to rev things up, you're already months behind the other guys.

UConn, for example, has oodles of talent. But we're convinced it's because they train so hard during the offseason that their games look so easy. After their stunning 90-36 rout of Temple Tuesday night, star Maya Moore called it the result of 6 a.m. workouts back in September, running the same drill over and over, "so in a game in March we can just go out and enjoy it."

By contrast, by the time the Lady Monarchs got to the CAA final, they appeared tired and sluggish.

One group busted it collective tail during the offseason. The other? "Some did, some didn't."

We wish Larry had made her team sit as a group in the stands and watch the UConn machine at work Tuesday night. No one's expecting the Lady Monarchs to play that well. But they need to start training so they can play that hard. Everyone does. See, because the UConns and the Tennessees already enjoy a talent advantage. If they also work harder than everyone else, it's no wonder those two keep lording over the sport.

Of course, a dedicated offseason isn't going to turn ODU into UConn. But the Lady Monarchs aren't even the best team in the CAA any more. And unless they become the hardest-working team in the CAA, it might stay that way for a while.

The journey to becoming the team they used to be - and we assume they want to be again -starts this offseason. And unlike injuries, officiating, quality of opponent or any other theory promoted to explain ODU's struggles, this one is completely within their control.


  1. Super evaluation. Like the old addage, you hit the nail on the head. It is too bad that this article couldnt be made required reading and discussion for the team. It shouldnt be necessary since this had to be a very embarassing season for all of them.

  2. You summed it up perfectly! Thank you!