XU Women's Basketball: A New Era
"We are not going to fail," Coach Amy Waugh said.
As the new head coach of a Xavier University women's basketball program that has reached new heights over the past few years, that is a daring thing to say. Especially with the losses of stars Ta'Shia Phillips, Amber Harris, Special Jennings, and 3 point specialist Katie Rutan. Any coach taking over an elite program, that has lost WNBA caliber talent, would be intimidated by the looming expectations. Waugh is not.
She was one of those star players, at one time. But before that, she started playing basketball at the age of four, tagging along with her two older brothers in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They taught her the game, and made it hard on her at times. That didn't stop her. Adversity never would.
She was a star at Homestead High School, and later chose Xavier University because it was such a close knit environment.
"The family atmosphere, the sense of togetherness, that is what defines Xavier University. It's why I chose it, and it's ultimately why I came back to coach, too," she said.
At Xavier, Waugh compiled numerous awards and records. As a freshman, she was the A10 rookie of the year. The following year, Xavier went 31-3, beat basketball powerhouse Tennessee and played in the Elite 8. As a senior, Waugh averaged 19 points per game, while setting a school record 107 3 pointers, and leading the nation in 3 point field goals per game at 3.6. She still holds a number of records at Xavier, including career free throw percentage (.854).
So, you ask her about those star players? She knows what it was like.
"You can't replace players like Ta'Shia, Amber, and Special. They were irreplaceable. But moving forward, we will continue to improve and build a better team. I keep telling my players, tradition does not graduate."
Just because some of the greatest players in Xavier history are gone does not mean that this run is over. No, far from it. Xavier will return star senior Tyeasha Moss, who was overlooked last year. She will not be this year, especially since her 10.4 ppg are bound to jump with some of the scoring load placed on her.
"Tyeasha is going to have a very special year," Waugh said with a smile, "She has been an integral part of our success, and I think the recognition she will get this year will be very rewarding."
Some other names to look out for this year are Jessica Pachko, who redshirted last year after transferring, and Cincinnati native Amber Gray, who had transferred from Tennessee and sat out last year due to injury. They will help relieve some of the loss of Harris and Phillips. Also, be on the lookout for Lynette Holmes, who Waugh said has had a great summer and fall. Overall, Xavier will need everyone on the team to contribute. The success this year will be a total team effort.
And now, Coach Waugh has the chance to build on that tradition, originally laid by Melanie Balcomb and Kevin McGuff. It's going to take the hard work, dedication, and determination that she showed throughout her career. The energy and feisty attitude will be there. Waugh will be nothing if not intense. But she knows everything is here to succeed.
"We have everything we need to be a consistent top 25 program," Waugh stated. "The on campus facilities, the tradition, the team chemistry, the players, the staff. And we have every intention of reaching our goals of getting Xavier to our first final four and national championship in the years to come. Like I said, we are not going to fail."
A special thanks to Coach Amy Waugh for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us.