After posting back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history and winning the National Christian College Athletic Association national title in 2001, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's basketball team knew that it would not be able to sneak up on any of its opponents in the 2001-2002 season.
Added to that, the Lady Cougars lost all of its starting front line from the national championship team to graduation and returned only two upperclassmen with much experience. Plus, the team's schedule was one of the toughest in the program's history as MVNC would play three of its first four games against NAIA nationally-ranked teams on the road.
However, despite all of the challenges that go along with a young, inexperienced team, the Lady Cougars proved that they could compete with anyone as the team posted an 8-18 overall record and finished 7-13 in the highly-competitive American Mideast Conference.
"I knew coming into this season that there were going to be some big shoes to fill if we were going to be successful," said MVNC head coach Steve Gregory. "We knew that size was going to be an issue as far as rebounding and low post threats were concerned. As a young team, we struggled to find consistency, leadership, and success."
The year started out with the Lady Cougars playing in the MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University Tournament and the Bevo Francis Classic at the University of Rio Grande. MVNC dropped all four games in these events with three of the losses coming against ranked teams. However, the team held its own and began to gain the experience that it would need later in the season.
After playing its first four games on the road, the Lady Cougars earned their first victory of the year with a 68-59 conference win over Carlow (Pa.) College. MVNC followed that with an 87-82 AMC win at Seton Hill (Pa.) College as the team improved to 2-0 in conference play.
Following a loss at Denison University, the Lady Cougars improved their record to 3-5 by blowing out Kentucky Christian College 82-53 on the Lady Knights' home court.
MVNC dropped five of its next six contests with the lone win coming at Daemen (N.Y.) College as the team's record slipped to 4-10. Then, the Lady Cougars rebounded with wins over Point Park (Pa.) College and Urbana University sandwiched around a loss at Geneva (Pa.) College to improve to 6-11.
However, the team then closed out its season with only two wins in its final nine games as MVNC finished the year at 8-18. The final two victories came against Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College and at Ursuline College.
"Our two biggest weaknesses as a team were rebounding and taking care of the basketball," said Gregory. "We gave our opponents too many extra chances (shots) at the basket and turned the ball over too much to become a solid team. Both are characteristics of young teams and will improve with age and experience."
The Lady Cougars were led by senior forward Angie Trainer, who averaged 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in being named to the AMC Second Team. Trainer also led the team with 69 steals and 77 assists. She finishes her career ranked second on MVNC's all-time scoring list with 1,571 points. She is also the career leader in steals (285), and ranks second in career free throws made (474), second in career field goals made (515), fifth in career assists (289), and sixth in career rebounds (639).
Sophomore center Lisa Beaver earned AMC Honorable Mention status with a breakout year as she averaged 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Beaver led the team with 26 blocked shots and shot 48.5 percent from the field (126-of-260).
Sophomore forward Susan Adams also averaged in double figures at 11.3 points per game, and she was the team's leading rebounder at 7.3 rebounds per contest. Adams also recorded 57 steals and nailed 35 three-pointers.
Junior guard Jenni Davis averaged 9.1 points per game and dished out 65 assists. She led the Lady Cougars with 44 three-pointers and shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc in 112 attempts. Davis was also the team's best free throw shooter as she nailed 55-of-66 attempts from the charity stripe (83.3 percent).
Sophomore guard Lisa Weller (32 treys) and freshmen guards Jenny Slack (29 treys) and Amy Myers (20 treys) all contributed throughout the season. Their continued improvement and long range shooting will be one of the keys to the success of next year's team.
"We have some young players to build around along with a few seasoned veterans," said Gregory. "The returning players have shown a strong willingness to improve and are already working on their game for 2002-2003. I think that next year will be an exciting year in Lady Cougar basketball as we strive to get back to form."