The following article on Army freshman Molly Yardley appeared in the Army Official Sports Report on Monday, March 1, and was written by John Ferro.
WEST POINT, N.Y. - It's been a season of ups and downs for the Army women's basketball team, just as it has been for one of its newest stars, Molly Yardley.
On Sunday, the Army women enjoyed one of their biggest "ups" - a 49-37 victory over Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pa. The win clinched the fourth seed in the upcoming Patriot League tournament. The official pairings will not be released until Monday.
The Black Knights finished the season 11-17, and 5-9 in the league. The nine league losses is more than Yardley, a freshman from Milford, Conn., experienced in the final two seasons at The Academy of Our Lady of Mercy, Lauralton Hall, a Catholic prep school in Milford, Conn.
"It's been tough," Yardley told Army OSR. "I remember having a conversation with Coach Shan (Shandrika Lee-Gerch) and she said, 'It really makes you mad when we lose.' And I said, 'I'm not used to losing three or four games in a row.' "
If Army is able to string a couple victories together in the tournament, Yardley could be a big reason why. Emerging from the most recent recruiting class, Yardley had started at guard in all three of the games leading up to Sunday's finale against Bucknell.
She has shown an ability to score, especially from the free-throw line. Yardley has averaged 5.2 points per game despite playing a little more than 17 minutes per game. At the free-throw line, she is 43-of-50, for a team-best 86 percent success rate.
Yardley does not have military history in her family. She said she settled on West Point after her visit.
"You know, it's funny," she said. "I've thought back on how I kind of ended up here. And I really don't know. My dad came with me on the visit and everything. We were driving home and he said, you're not going to find anyplace else like that. I just remember thinking that he was totally right."
It's never easy to be a plebe at West Point. Asked if she ever wonders what she's gotten herself into, Yardley laughed and said, "I think that probably at least once a day, to be honest."
But things started to change on the court as Yardley adjusted to the pace of the college game and began to see more playing time. The high point came on Jan. 13 at home against Holy Cross. Yardley led all players with a career-high 17 points, including four key free throws late in the game, to lead Army to a 65-61 victory.
"It was the first time I had been out on the floor at the end of the game," she said.
The validation came, she said, when junior swingman Laura Baranek told her, " 'Ok, I'm going to look for you on the inbounds because you're the best free-throw shooter we have.' It was sort of one of those times where (I thought), 'Ok, if they think that, I don't know what's holding me back.' "
Yardley admits her biggest improvements need to come on defense. Indeed, her struggles on defense have at times affected her ability to score.
"I think right now, I get lost in thinking too much on what I need to do on defense," she said. "On offense, I am thinking, 'I have to make sure to find (my defensive assignment) in transition so she doesn't beat me back.' So it's sort of a split focus - you try too hard on one thing and everything else suffers."
But as the days pass, life on the court - and off of it - get easier.
"I'm a big creature of habit," she said. "I like my comfort zone exactly where it is. But I think this is a place that challenges you to try to redefine your comfort zone. And every day, it just pushes you a little further out of it until you realize, 'Oh, maybe that's not so bad as I was afraid it was going to be.' "