Pitt women's basketball begins the 2012-13 season on Saturday, Nov. 3 with an exhibition contest versus Lock Haven. The Panthers and Lady Eagles tip at noon at the Petersen Events Center.
Head Coach Agnus Berenato, who begins her 10th season at Pitt this fall, returns three starters including sophomore Brianna Kiesel.
The Big East All-Freshman team selection led the Panthers in a host of categories last season, including scoring (13.6), assists (3.0) and minutes per game (36.3). The Utica, N.Y., native -- along with redshirt junior Abby Dowd and redshirt freshman Loliya Briggs -- was named team captain on Thursday.
Q: What's the biggest change you've seen personally in your progress from the start of last season to this preseason as you get ready for your second season in a Pitt uniform?
Kiesel: I think my confidence level is a major difference. Last year I was coming in and was a little shy and nervous and I didn't really know what I was coming in to, but this year I have a lot more confidence. I don't necessarily know what's expected, but I have a little better idea of what is to be expected.
Q: What do you think is expected of you -- and what are you ready to deliver?
Kiesel: I have to make sure I keep going and push everybody (on the floor). I have to make sure every one of my teammates know the plays and to keep everyone informed on what's going on; basically be like the middle man between the coaches and the players. I am confident in my role at the point guard. I'm probably still not as vocal as the coaches would like me to be, but it's a learning experience. I'm just trying to get a little bit better each day.
Q: You along with your teammates came from amazing high school programs; how tough was last season as a player?
Kiesel: It was very tough at times. I would think back to my freshman year of high school and we struggled a lot. It took until my junior and senior years for us to be competitive, so I tried to keep that in perspective that we were young and would grow from the experience. Nobody was really used to having such a drought of a season. We just weren't where we wanted to be, but I believe everyone learned and we decided that last year was just that -- it would push us. We have to take that and put it in for this year and hopefully we get it together.
Q: What's the greatest lesson you learned from last season and what about it has prepared you for 2012-13?
Kiesel: There's so many I can't even tell you one in particular. I learned so much between watching everyone and listening to the coaches. I can't really give you one, direct answer. I do think losing really has pushed us to win; losing some big games where we should have won was probably the most difficult part of last season. A couple of times where we should have won I missed the game winners both times (Louisville and USF). Those are tough breaks, especially for a freshman. For the coaches to give me that opportunity and for me to fail; it was tough. I take a lot personally because that's just the type of person I am. If we fail, the majority of it I put on me. I ask myself, what could I have done to make it better?
Q: What are you looking forward to the most as the season is getting ready to kick off?
Kiesel: I'm looking forward to every game and coming in and everyone working hard. We have so much more chemistry this year. We know each other a little better, like when we're driving we drive and kick and a lot of people are open for that shot now as compared to last year when we didn't really move out of the corner. We just weren't in that right position for that pass and kick. We know our player personnel. I'm just looking forward to seeing how everyone comes out and plays.
Q: You also have a year under your belt experiencing our fine city. How have you adjusted to Pittsburgh as a whole?
Kiesel: Pittsburgh is a great, great city. Over the summer I had a chance to go down to Station Square and look over and see the boats. I went to the Regatta and did a lot of different things. They were a lot of things I didn't really do last year because I wasn't really familiar with the city, but now I'm a lot more comfortable and really starting to love the city. And being from upstate New York I am used to the weather. The hills, not so much -- but you have to get used to them eventually. They don't ever change and they never get shorter (laughing).
Q: Does playing your last year in the Big East also have a special meaning?
Kiesel: Yes. We would like to go out on a high note, and I really think that with the people we have now, us coming together and pulling through, I think we all want to end on a high note leaving the Big East. I also think we have the best of both worlds. I've gotten the opportunity and will have the chance to play in two of the best conferences for women's basketball in the country in the Big East and the ACC.
Q: What's the best part about being a member of the Pitt basketball team?
Kiesel: The best part about being a part of Pitt basketball is definitely the family atmosphere. We are all growing together and it's basically like we're growing up as a family and doing it together. Everyone still has another year (to play together) so we still have that time to grow even more together. We have a great coaching staff; they're always there for you. You never get the sense of being lonely because you always have so many people that are here.