Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Understanding what it means to be a Lady Monarch

The 63-59 result that favored Maryland Eastern Shore over Old Dominion on Wednesday afternoon likely didn't faze the more than 2,000 Norfolk Public School children in attendance. Bet they had a blast in the Constant Center, watching Big Blue, singing "Ice Cream and Cake," and last of all, watching the game. Those kids are too young to realize the statement ODU made on the court. But the young women wearing Lady Monarch uniforms are old enough to understand it. The question is, do they?

ODU lost to a MEAC team for the first time in its history. Maryland Eastern Shore is no Hampton. Picked to finish eighth in the 13-team MEAC, they rank last in that conference in scoring offense and field-goal percentage.

"This win is far bigger than we could ever imagine," said coach Fred Batchelor.

And for ODU this is a loss hard to imagine. This one does not belong alongside Stanford or Georgia Tech or Seton Hall, for that matter. This one stands alone. There are no travel days to blame. There are no exams. This isn't about youth.  ODU was coming off a comfortable win over North Carolina A&T on Sunday. There is no reason for these Lady Monarchs to fall to Maryland Eastern Shore.

Karen Barefoot has contagious enthusiasm and an ability to find a positive in any negative. There is no silver lining here. The wisest person I know about women's basketball told me once that with this game,  the game before the players break for the holidays, you never know what you're going to get. Kids are anxious to go home. They're already tasting Mom's home cooking. It's the first real break the players have had since preseason. A few hours after the final whistle, the Lady Monarchs were airport bound or catching rides home. Know what? The Hawks were doing the same, only they were going into Christmas with a win to feel good about.

Moons ago the Lady Monarchs lost to James Madison on a February night in Harrisonburg. These were great Lady Monarchs, too -- Ticha, Clarisse and company. Wendy Larry saw the team was upset but frankly, not upset enough. She had a conversation with that team she would never need to repeat. It was about Lady Monarch pride. It was about what wearing a jersey that said "Old Dominion" on its front meant. It was about giving your all every day, every night. Those players went on to become part of ODU's 113-game CAA win streak.

Now times have changed. The CAA is worlds better thanks to the standard ODU set. But not everything has changed. When you wear that blue and silver uniform, it's still not about you. It's about a tradition that goes back to the '70s ; it's about Anne Donovan and Nancy Lieberman; it's about Ticha and Mery and Clar; it's about Lucienne and Tanty and Natalie. It's about Shareese Grant and a 35-point effort in the CAA championship.  It's about Megan and Shahida and TJ -- the last team to win an NCAA Tournament game.

Your load is heavy as a Lady Monarch because you're never playing for you. You're part of a tradition, a revered tradition that frankly is getting lost with losses to Loyola in front of 400 and certainly with a beating from a seven-loss Maryland Eastern Shore team.

When you're a Lady Monarch, you don't take heart in competing with a team picked last in the ACC, especially when that team is on your floor. You don't get blown out by a league opponent. And maybe you lose to Maryland, but you don't lose to Maryland Eastern Shore.

It comes back to accountability. Nobody is expecting a team full of freshman with an entirely new coaching staff to make a national impact. But on this day, playing in your gym, in front of a bunch of schoolkids cheering for you, against a team that had only recorded wins over American and Delaware State -- on this day, the Lady Monarchs are expected to win.

Why? Because you're Old Dominion. If you check out the box score from today's game, you won't find much remarkable. Nobody got hurt; the opponent didn't shoot the lights out; there wasn't an officiating issue.

But frankly, something remarkable did happen today. Let's hope the players with "Lady Monarchs" on their jerseys realize that.


  1. very touching. I hope the ladies read and feel all this.

  2. Great piece about Lady Monarch traditions. No doubt in my mind that these young ladies will start turning things around midway through the season with modest improvements.

  3. This article bothered me. In the past 3 years... 7 kids transferred, the academic progress (APR) is in jeopardy (way below standards) with the possibility of losing scholarships, players were not graduating. Not to mention that the recruiting is way below conference standards.

    This is a young team with a tremendous leader in Tia Lewis and Karen Barefoot, that is trying to build back a healthy program... forget championships. That will come. But lets get back to doing the right thing and take of the players... keep them and graduate them. I see players that hang around the Constant Center, that STILL do NOT have their degrees.

    We should not as fans compare this team with past teams because it is in shambles and trying to get the foundation back.

    Duke Coach K's bio states they had a few rebuilding seasons, Geno at UConn had a losing season in his first year, even Wendy Larry had a losing season in '90-91, try 5-21 record.

    It seems to me that it is very clear to say that there NEEDED to be a change. I respect what Wendy has done, but the past 3 years dictated where we are today. No doubt this is the toughest job in America. It is more than just basketball, this article is way out of line, makes no sense.

    And I'm not sure but isn't Ladyswish, Vicki Friedman... VA Pilot, Announcer of Wendy Larry's Hall of Fame. Regardless, you are negative to the players and program. They need support, this is a huge task to turn the program back into one that has character, morals and tradition.

    Coach Barefoot is a positive, enthusiatic leader that is a proven winner in building quality championship programs. She is selfless and would do everything to make the program, community and even Coach Larry proud.

    ~Long Time Fan

  4. Thank you for reminding us all what being a lady monarch means.

  5. I agree with the long time fan that the article was unfair. I also question the transfer numbers. By my calculations 27 players have actually worn a uniform for the lady monarchs (including new player from Portugal)since the loss at Greensboro in 2008. 5 transferred. 8 completed 4 years eligibility or graduated due to rs (Collier). 14 are still in the program. Most of our pro lems stem from a key injury. Jazz Walters in Jan 2009. It screwed up plans on a number of levels. The local media also lost faith in the Lady Monarchs about the time the best writer was the guy whose primary job was to cover football. That also affected recruiting. The way GS treated the women's games effected fan attitude. Eg limited consessions when Tenn was here in 2009 which continues. Others have shown a bad attitude. The voice. Rarely travels with the team. Attendance started dropping in 2009 even during a nation leading hf winning streak. And a top 10 finish.

  6. Attendance started droping in 2005. Mistyped.

  7. Excellent article. It really puts it into perspective what this program is about. The current level of play is unexceptable, and hopefully we will begin to see a turnaround. Very sad time to follow Lady Monarch basketball. Barefoot needs to bring more to the table and stop making so many excuses.

  8. As a former Lady Monarch.....I will just say, the team is going through a rebuilding stage, so let's be patient and hope things turn around soon! Hey, I'm a Knicks I've learned to keep the faith:)

  9. Your article was on point w/ tradition, pride & accountability but these do not fall solely on the players shoulders but also on the coaching staff. "Contagious enthusiasm" only gets you so far & then competent coaching has to take it to the next level & honestly we just haven't seen it from this staff so far. Twice in tight games we have been w/o timeouts @ the end of the game - an utter no-no w/ the previous staff. A blown game against a BAD GW team w/ a big lead while 3 frosh are on the court late in the game making frosh mistakes & then the same against Maryland ES. It doesn't have to be that way if the coaches make good decisions w/ the right personnel on the court @ the end of the game. You reference the lady monarch youth but we did return 43% of our scoring from last year, a team that won 20 games. We will be lucky to reach 10 wins this year & it won't be because of PLAYERS lacking pride, tradition & accountability set by past great players it will be due more to a coaching staff unable to meet those exact standards established by former great coaches like Stanley & Larry. A coach that fails to bring even one of her assistants from a very "successful" Elon program w/ her to ODU & a career record of 37-58 please put blame where is surely lies & that is @ the feet of the HC.

  10. I totally agree about this new coaching staff with 1/3 of the season done they still do not know who the starters are and who plays well together.They seem to have a different flavor for each game. The YOUTH is hurting this decent ODU team. Wendy knew how and when to play freshman to get their feet wet. Case in point was Carolyn Cloutier from Canada. She played alot at PG and turned the ball over so much that Parker had to take over. Than at the end of the season she transfers. If and when The girl from Portugal is eligible will she play? Seems like the HC is in awe by the current PG. Hard to make any sense out of the Lady Monarch season so far.

  11. I'm trying hard to be patient, but it's difficult. When Barefoot took over the program, a lot of folks (AAU coach, radio commentator, ODU officials) thought she was the brightest star in the sky. Seems not. She's extremely enthuastiac, but I don't think she has the coaching experience or ability to pull this team out of the free-fall it's in. The lost to Maryland Eastern Shore was telling. ODU should have blown the team out (dare I say a Wendy Larry team would have?) but didn't for a lot of reasons. Coaching at Elon and the Apprentiace School is a lot different than coaching a team in the CAA, which is a few pegs down from the ACC or SEC. I can't see this coach putting ODU back at the top of the CAA, much less competing against schools from the ACC or SEC. Hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so.