But despite the tough scheduling demands, the players all have a little extra pep in their step these days; the team is on its first three-game winning streak of the season.,It's almost 8 p.m. on a Monday night, and the women's basketball team is just finishing a grueling practice. In less than 12 hours, the team will be back in the gym again, trying to cram as much court time as possible into the hectic school week.
But despite the tough scheduling demands, the players all have a little extra pep in their step these days; the team is on its first three-game winning streak of the season.
With its recent success, the team has evened their record at 9-9 (4-2 Great Northeast Athletic Conference). It is the first time since Dec. 12 that the team has had a .500 record or better.
"[Practice] has been much better than when the season first started," said Maude Okrah, a junior marketing communication major. "We know our potential as a team, and to see it coming out, it creates a more positive atmosphere."
Part of the reason for the improvement has been the transition to GNAC play. Coach Bill Gould said his team played a very difficult non-conference schedule that served as good preparation for league play.
"When you've played a nationally-ranked team like Southern Maine, when you show up to other games it's like, 'OK, we've done this'," Gould said.
Although the team has fought its way back to a 9-9 record, the victories have not come easy. The Lions recently finished a stretch of 11 games in 24 days, allowing the team very little time to practice or recuperate between contests.
Gould said the tight schedule took a serious toll on the players physically.
"Your body needs a break," he said. "We had one day off in a 20 day stretch. That's not healthy. It's not good for the players at all."
Gould said he tried to get the team as much rest as possible by shortening practices, often making them 90 minutes instead of the usual two and a half hours.
Becky Everett, a senior marketing communication major, said it was often tempting for the players to slack off because they were so exhausted.
"Your body is just telling you to have a lazy practice in between games," Everett said. "But that doesn't help you during the hardest part of the season."
Gould, who is a first year coach at Emerson, said that the biggest improvement he has seen in his team lately has been their ability to work with each other as a unit. Early on, he said, players seemed to be operating more as individuals than together. Now, with the season more than half over, he said the players have begun to gel as a group.
"Our chemistry and work ethic has been much stronger; we're better in that regard than earlier in the year" Gould said. "It's a funny thing, too; when you start playing harder and working together, you start to win games."
Gould added that he believes his team has the talent to make a run at the GNAC tournament title, which would translate into the first-ever berth in the NCAA tournament for the program.
Okrah echoed her coach's sentiment, and said the team has been working better as a unit as of late.
"We've still got lots of work to do," Okrah said. "But it's good to see we've been so successful already with so much left to improve upon."