Discipline and defense drive Marymount

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Discipline and drills in practice leads to drudgery for Marymount's opponents in games.
Photo by Marymount athletics


By Phil Soto-Ortiz

D3hoops.com

Paul "Bear" Bryant and Bobby Knight were able to achieve a high level of success based upon strict discipline and demanding leadership. The modern athlete seems averse to this style of coaching. – 
“Motivating the Modern Athlete,” by Dr. Marty Durden, athletic director at the Presbyterian School in Houston.

Players, coaches, administrators, fans and whoever else wants to join in can argue for hours – years – about whether there is still a place in sports for the type of discipline Bryant and Knight espoused. Discipline, however, does not have to come in the form of the militaristic leadership of a martinet.

At Marymount, the word simply means the meticulous repetition of drills – particularly defensive ones – until everything can be replicated during games. It’s not about beating down the Marymount players; it’s about their breaking down their opponents, frustrating them into bad possessions and leading to easy baskets for the Saints.
This discipline has the Saints undefeated in the tough Capital Athletic Conference (13-2 overall) and, for the second straight season, ranked in the top 20 in the nation in both steals and points allowed. Such defensive prowess is the hallmark of Marymount coach Ashlee Rogers.

“We use the word ‘discipline’ a lot,” Rogers said. “That can have a negative feel to it, but we focus on the fact that when you play a disciplined game, these are the results."

“Defense is really the cornerstone of our style of game,” said senior forward Nicole Viscuso. “We drill it every single practice, every single drill. Even if it’s truly an offensive drill. It really is the key to our success, especially our success year in, year out. Coach is very disciplined in her style. Consistency is the key.”

Rogers, who reached four NCAA tournaments and advanced as far as the Final Four as a Marymount player, agrees wholeheartedly with Viscuso’s assessment.

“I’m big on repetition,” Rogers said. “Our girls can probably tell you exactly what our practice plan is today, what it is tomorrow, the next day. I’ve been very fortunate. The last five years, I’ve had players who have really bought in, believing that keeping it competitive in practice will carry over to the game.”

The emphasis on steals is a common theme in the CAC. Salisbury head men’s coach Andrew Sachs told Around the Mid-Atlantic last year of the Gulls’ goal of 40 deflections per game. Rogers said she expects even more from the Saints. One of their top rivals, Christopher Newport, statistically has been better than Marymount this season at both tamping down opponents’ point totals and getting steals.

The Saints, however, out-pilfered the sixth-ranked Captains, 15-9, in their meeting Jan. 6, a 77-67 Saints win.
 Sophomore Regan Lohr scored 18 points in that game, as did Tyffani McQueen.

“I know that whenever we play Christopher Newport, it’s always a good game because we do play very similar styles,” Lohr said. “In that game, we were able to create more steals, able to stop their offense a little more than they were us.”

Lohr and the Saints stayed hot Saturday by beating Mary Washington for their fourth straight win since a Dec. 30 loss to Catholic (another team high up in the national rankings for defense). Lohr has averaged nearly 20 points per game in the four wins and earned CAC and ECAC South player-of-the-week awards during the stretch. Lohr said she appreciates the awards for what they mean: that she is getting open shots because the whole team is playing well – especially point guard Leah Hurst.

“I love playing with Leah,” Lohr said. “She sees the floor very well, so I know when I run up the side, she gets (the ball) to me very well. I know where she’s going to be, and she knows where I’m going to be.”

Lohr, Hurst, Gabriella Haddad and Viscuso all contribute at least 1.9 steals per game, but McQueen stands out at 3.3.

“I have one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the country in Tyffani McQueen,” Rogers said. “She’s fun to watch. She can pick a point guard’s pocket. When she puts that much pressure on the point guard, that’s when Regan, Leah, Gabby and Nicole can step into the passing lanes. We’re looking to wear our opponents down and take advantage of the opportunities we create.

Rogers still keeps in touch with Bill Finney, her former coach at Marymount, now retired. She credits him with instilling the disciplined approach to defense when she played for him. She said he talks to her about McQueen as a player he watches and wishes he could have coached.

The steals and deflections are the backbone of the Saints’ defense, but the emotional highlights are the charges her players take.

“When anybody takes a charge, that’s the time we know everybody is doing their job,” Rogers said. “It gets the whole bench up. It changes the energy of the game. “Last game (against Mary Washington), we had a freshman, Kat Ryan, come off the bench and take two. It’s kind of exciting for me.”

Lions roar again

Perhaps it was their season-opening game against the Saints that got Albright primed for top competition. The Lions already owned a win over then-No. 1 Tufts, back in December. They posted another impressive upset Saturday, beating No. 19 Messiah 63-54. Alysha Lofton was the star with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists. With the win, Albright tied the Falcons atop the Commonwealth standings; each team is 6-1 in conference.

York rolling

The Spartan men’s team shows no sign of slowing down. All five York starters reached double figures in a 79-69 win over Christopher Newport. The Spartans shot an impressive 54.3 percent from the field and outscored the Captains 20-7 at the free-throw line. York (Pa.) is now ranked fourth in the country, equaling its highest ranking ever. The Spartans reached No. 4 in the country in Feb. 2006 before losing to Widener in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Phil Soto-Ortiz

Phil Soto-Ortiz has been a play-by-play sportscaster for basketball, football and lacrosse at Franklin & Marshall College since 2010, and has also called games at Division II St. Anselm College in New Hampshire and at high schools around Connecticut. He writes the annual Centennial College football preview for D3football.com's Kickoff publication and has covered sports for the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News and several dailies and weeklies in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He graduated from Syracuse University, where he called the play-by-play of the women?s basketball team's games, including their last win over the UConn Huskies.
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