Oct. 11, 2012
Pitt Women’s Basketball Media Day Press Conference
“(I have to give a) shout-out to student-athletes because student-athletes do way more than just perform on the court. We are so excited about the upcoming season. Last year we had the youngest team in the nation out of over 350 teams. To be the youngest is kind of daunting. Stacey (Media Relations) just told me that we’re probably going to be in the top five youngest again, but I’m really excited because we’re a year older.
I feel like with the three girls to my left (Ashlee Anderson) and my right (Brianna Kiesel and Abby Dowd) I am excited. Yesterday we completed practice and I said to my staff, “What did you all think?” And of course they gave their opinion and my statement was that we’re better on day seven this year than we were on day seven last year. It took me back to the days of when we had (former Panther standouts) Shavonte Zellous and Xenia Stewart when they were freshmen and then when they were sophomores and we were pulling our hair out, and we just had to continue to look to the future.
I’m excited about the energy, the enthusiasm, and the work ethic of our student-athletes. I think between Bri, Abby, and Ashlee, we do have leadership. I couldn’t say that last year. But, to go in the Big East and to come up short-handed in every Big East game and still have your point guard voted unanimous All- Big East freshman (team) was amazing.
I have Bri back, and she is playing that way. Last year she didn’t know if she was coming or going. This year though, I have said to her many times, ‘This is your team. It’s not my team, it’s not Pitt’s team, it’s not the community’s team, it’s not Ashlee’s team or Abby’s team, but Bri, this is your team. You’re the coach on the court.’ And I think Bri is really excited about that. I’m excited to have Ashlee back. She is, without a doubt, our most veteran player and is a redshirt junior. Ashlee’s played the most minutes out of everybody. She knows great things are expected of her, but she’s put the time in and she’s just really playing athletic and smart. And then there’s Abby. What a treasure, a blessing actually, for her to transfer from Buffalo and to find out one day that she missed basketball and then asked me if she could be a practice player. Thank God the NCAA rules said that girls can’t be practice players and that they have to be on the team. So she was a walk-on. She’s only one of two walk-ons I’ve ever given a scholarship to. Besides being a 4.0 student, besides being a Pathfinder and the socialite of the University of Pittsburgh, I don’t know what else I can really say about Abby.
(I am) very much looking forward to the team, have some strength coming back. I think you guys will be really excited to see Loliya Briggs, who was probably our highest recruited athlete ever. You finally get a highly recruited athlete and they represent their nation and they go and play in the world, and last summer she blew her knee out in France. And again, you go, ‘Wow we were so excited to have someone of that caliber,’ but to get her back is great and she’s still working out the kinks. We had two other major injuries: Asia Logan and Cora McManus. They had major surgeries and they were both major impact players for us. Good news is that they’re all back and they’ve been cleared to play. Again, they’re working out the kinks, but they both will have major impact and then will have minutes.
We’re excited about the season; we’re excited to compete in our last season in the Big East and to really try to make a difference.”
Thoughts on opening the season on Friday with Midnight Madness:
Berenato: “I’m just so excited. I’m just so excited that ESPN and WTAE and all the different stations will be picking this up. We’re really, really fired up. We’ve been trying to keep it under wraps with our team. I haven’t even really shared a lot with my staff because we started two weeks ago so tomorrow is not really our official day. We were able to start October 1, that was our official opening day. So, for us, we have to focus on our task at hand. Being so young, any little thing gets the kids off track, but we are very, very excited. The weather doesn’t bother me at all because I think our emotion and the excitement will warm our spirit, and we are all pretty warm people anyway. I texted my husband yesterday, who’s a hunter, and asked if he had any hand warmers, that (assistant coaches) Khadija (Head) or Patty (Coyle) told me about, that come in little packs that you squeeze. I never really heard of them, but he said yeah he has tons of them, so I have hand warmers for everyone. But, I’m really thinking that the excitement of it and to be introduced in front of the crowd outside will be awesome. I saw the court that we are going to use. Tim Pederson (Marketing) was in the back of the loading dock one day and he had a basketball and said ‘Hey coach, what do you think of this?’ and I dribbled it around and I’m like, ‘It’s awesome, why?’ And he was like, ‘Well, you know, I was just thinking about Midnight Madness.’ And that’s one thing about the University of Pittsburgh: we definitely think outside the box. So I hope you guys all come. I think it’s going to be awesome, a great experience.”
Ashlee Anderson: “I’m pretty excited. I think it’s a great opening to the weekend, especially with it being the 225th anniversary of Pitt. So, it’s a lot of alumni back on campus and a lot of energy going around campus and the university, and also within our team. So, I’m excited because it’s my first midnight madness. I think growing up you always see other teams having midnight madness and I’m just excited to be a part of it. Especially being outside, I’m pretty excited. I’ll see tomorrow when we’re actually out there and we have to compete against each other. It’s just doing little fun things to get the fans involved.”
Brianna Kiesel: “I’m excited. This is my first time going to a school that actually had midnight madness. I’m just excited and there are so many things we can do. Our teams are excited and I know the men’s team is doing something pretty cool. Their skit is going to be pretty interesting. And what we’re going to do is going to be pretty interesting, too. It’s really going to be a good start to the season.”
Abby Dowd: “I’m definitely always teetering between being mildly horrified that I’m going to be doing this on national television and just so excited. It’s so cool. It’s outside, I mean, I don’t know what other structure is better to have as the backdrop than the Cathedral of Learning. It’s just going to be visually incredible, and in addition to that, all the energy that we have. I don’t know what the boys’ energy level is like, but I know our team is at least going to have that energy. It’s homecoming weekend so you know all the students are just so fired up, and I mean, who’s not excited for midnight madness? I’ve been telling people about it, well kind of telling people and kind of horrified if they actually watch, so I’ve been like ‘Yeah, we have midnight madness! It’s going to be on ESPN, but anyway (laughs).’ We are just stoked about midnight madness.”
One the biggest difference in your first year and starting your second at Pitt:
Brianna Kiesel: “I feel a lot more confident this last year, coming in last year and having a big role on the team I was nervous and excited. This year those nerves have gone away and I am more confident in myself and my team.”
Abby Dowd: “I agree, coming in and not necessarily knowing what your role is going to be – and what is expected of you is definitely a factor as how you play as a team. This year, I feel like everyone is very is very confident and steadfast in their role on the team and they know what is expected of them. I feel as if when we are running sets, it definitely feels a lot more fluid than this time last year. The chemistry looks a lot better and feels fluid as a player which in turn makes it easier for this year’s freshmen to adapt and get into the system. We are very optimistic for the season.”
Last year, team went 0-16 in Big East play – is that a motivational factor as you prepare for this season?
Abby Dowd: “Yes, absolutely. No one wants to lose and last year was difficult – but I think it motivated us and propelled us forward. It’s motivation to get in the gym and get some extra shots up (on a day off). Losing while it’s not ideal, there are things we did learn from it. Last year happened, but I think it’s important to note we are not dwelling on last season. We are taking a positive mindset and this is new season.”
Brianna Kiesel: Although we were 0-16 and every game we did get better and learned more about each other and our chemistry got better. This year we have a brand new slate and we are a lot more fluid and we have more chemistry between each other and more confident.”
Ashlee Anderson: This is our last season in the Big East and we can take it as we have to prove ourselves on the court. We want to leave our mark on the conference and to play every game with confidence.”