The Whole Nine Yards: Blog #7

(L to R) Karleen Paulin, Kait Goodall, Jen Hazlett

(L to R) Karleen Paulin, Kait Goodall, Jen Hazlett

Dec. 15, 2011

Junior guard Molly Yardley will take Army women's basketball fans on a journey throughout the 2011-12 season through her blog The Whole Nine Yards. Yardley is the Black Knights' top returning scorer from a year ago and only returning starter. Check back weekly to follow along with the inside happenings of the Army women's basketball team.

Happy exam week, Army fans! Well, I suppose it's not really a happy event having to sit through exams, but at least it means the end of the semester and Christmas break. We're all pretty excited because once we finish up our tests we hit the road for a great adventure West to Arizona State. We're also looking forward to a little break this week as we have individual practices instead of team ones to accommodate the TEE (term-end exam) schedules we all have to deal with. It's hard to get 18 peoples' schedules to work together for us to have full practices throughout the week, so we get in some practice time when we can. It's usually a welcome break from studying, at least for me. Sometimes we have a rough practice or two, but no excuses. As Coach Magarity reminds us, "You're not the only college in the country taking exams!" At least other teams get to wear sweats to class, though...

If you've been following along our last couple of weeks, you might have noticed we've been struggling. We've lost 3 of our last 4 games...pretty tough stuff. It wasn't quite the way we'd hoped to go into this week as we break for exams. We just haven't come up with big plays when we need to in these close games. Our recent loss to Penn was our worst loss of the season so far, and it shouldn't have been. We were up by 10 in the first half, but just couldn't close it out. We didn't rebound for a stretch, didn't score, and we just didn't get defensive stops at critical times. There are points in a game where you just need to get things done, and we haven't figured out how to do that yet.

We're in the middle of what my dad would call a bit of a skid. Things aren't necessarily awful; they're just not great either. I would argue that that pretty much sums up life here at Castle Gray most days, but that might just be my exam week cynicism. Basketball is a game of runs, and the same holds true for a season. We started off hot, and now that we're not scoring as easily and the level of competition has picked up, we're forced to take a look in the mirror. Half of us were on a team last year that won six straight games to kick off league play - and that hot streak got us no further than the opening round of the Patriot League Playoffs. Suffice it to say, hot streaks aren't all that they are cracked up to be.

Most of what goes on at a place like West Point is cleverly described as rigorous, engaging, challenging, or, best of all, "character-building." The phrase, "it's character-building," has become our way of sarcastically dealing with whatever ridiculously demanding situation comes our way. It applies to any area of life, really. You have a morning individual with Coach Mullen right before your first exam, and you're so tired now that you're not sure you'll stay awake? Life's tough, could be tougher if she makes you run for complaining, so it's just some character-building. The temperature drops to freezing outside and you return to your room to realize that your heater doesn't turn on? Welp, that's when you layer on every piece of clothing you own and gut it out. For slow-pokes like me, simply managing to make it out of practice and onto the bus for a road trip in the fifteen minutes we get is an exercise in character-building.

One of the great benefits of being at a place like West Point is you really can't complain. It's been like this for two centuries, and it sure as heck isn't going to change for me because I'd rather wear more fashionable hats or get to sleep in past 615 in the morning. Sometimes when I feel as though I'm in a no-win situation, it's almost like I can hear George Custer saying, "And you think you've got it rough..." One of the great benefits of playing for a coach like Coach Magarity is that he's sort of a West Point himself. No excuses; nobody cares. Challenge is part of the deal - part of playing basketball, part of being at West Point, part of being alive. So it's probably about time that we got used to it.

We've all faced some pretty big challenges this year. For the Plebes, surviving the summer in one piece was tough. After making it through Buckner, the Yuks were met with the wonderful experience that is the toughest academic year West Point can throw at us. We Cows traveled across the country and around the world (some of us also stayed right here at West Point for the summer), and figured out if we wanted to take Cow Commitment and renew our Oath. And as you read last week, the Firsties completed their final summer assignments, got their rings, heroically fought off senioritis through first semester, and picked a branch. All in all, it's been a pretty "challenging" six or so months.

In the midst of exams (challenging enough in itself), we are in the midst of the most challenging part of our season to date. Things were easy when we were winning; everybody was feeling good about where we were, encouraged about where we were heading. Now that we're struggling, it's been a pretty tough reality check. But as evidenced above, we're pretty accustomed to challenge. All it really means is that we have absolutely no excuse to not respond. After all, the whole "get tough when the times do" thing is sort of our job description...

Speaking of getting tough, Karleen Paulin pretty much defines the word. KP has been sidelined for ten months because of a really bad knee injury, but you wouldn't know it from her attitude. In fact, she ran and jumped for the first time just last week! Aside from the fact that she now has MONSTER arms, the only other difference is that she is now even more determined to succeed than ever. That's pretty inspiring. Here are five things you probably didn't know about KP:

1) She is the master of Military Science, and has bailed many of us out on plenty of Operations Orders and quizzes. I'm pretty sure she is Alexander the Great reincarnated.

2) She shows affection to exactly one creature, and that would be my Pillow Pet panda.

3) She is from South Carolina. This means two things: first, the fishing pole stays out year round, and second, her iPod is an eclectic mix of hard rock and country.

4) While we were out at Buckner, she earned the Recondo badge--a pretty big deal around here. Basically, it means she's awesome at every military and physical task West Point comes up with.

5) I would stake my Cow Loan on the fact that Karleen Paulin will graduate from Ranger school.

"Being challenged in life is inevitable; being defeated is optional." - Roger Crawford

"I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately triumph than succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail." - Woodrow Wilson

This week, there are two Quotes of the Day. I couldn't decide which one fit our situation better, and I realized that they both are actually perfect in a different way. The first one is sort of a poetic "suck it up" reminder that life is rarely going to go how you planned, but that's not a reason for giving up. There are things that happen during the course of a practice, game, or season that we have absolutely no control over. But as Coach Magarity reminds us, we do have absolute control over how we react. Responding to tough situations is what great teams do.

The second quote, from another one of my favorite historical figures, is a reminder that losing some preseason games, while tough on the old ego, is by no means a death sentence. Better we lose now than when a loss could end our season. Like I mentioned earlier, half of us succeeded early in a season that ultimately ended in one of the most disappointing losses that we could have imagined. I guess the take away from all of this - taking exams, losing games, sleeping in the field, and living in Victorian - era rooms with occasional heat--is that things are rarely easy. But, then again, nothing worth having comes easy.


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