Last year's Phoenix team lost five key contributors to graduation. There were talks of this season being a "rebuilding year" instead Green Bay won yet another conference crown. It's what the players signed up for.
“Coming to Green Bay games starting my freshman year of high school, you see the type of players they recruit, you see the community, you really see what type of expectation level is established,” Mehryn Kraker said.
The Phoenix have now won 16 consecutive Horizon League titles -- 17 total since joining the conference during the 1994-95 season. Redshirt freshman Mehryn Kraker said this year's theme was "Not on our Watch".
“That's kinda been passed down throughout the program where we're not going to be the team to not get the banner this year”.
There were bumps and bruises along the way. The Phoenix were win-less in the month of December and lost back to back conference games for the first time ever under Head Coach Kevin Borseth.
“Coach told us we were going to hit rock bottom he didn't know when it was. Some point we hit it and we bounced back and we came ready to play,” Breannah Ranger explained.
“When the players start to win games they get in the thick of things..you know you think that you were going to give them some latitude to make mistakes but then they prove that they can do it,” Kevin Borseth commented. “Anytime that kids prove that they can do it then you can lay a little more responsibility on them. So we try to lay as much responsibility as we can and accountability and as a result they respond.”
Green Bay recruits talented athletes, but it takes the right coach to get each player to play up to her potential. Kevin Borseth isn't the type to take the credit, instead he attributes his team's success to the old philosophy "Practice how you Play".
“You know they bust it in practice, they do so when it comes into a game scenario at least they've seen some of that pressure and some of that toughness in practice that's really helped them so ... the players do the work, all we do is try to guide them along the way obviously but they're the ones that really do the work and supporting each other in the process. So far the end product's been really good,” Borseth weighed in.
The team's depth has certainly helped. A number of players can step up and be the "hot-hand" on any given day.
“We've heard the statistic of what is it 8 leading scorers this year on the team and with a team like that, whether you're on your game or not, there's no pressure so whether you're contributing 15 points every night, as long as you're on the floor and helping out your teammates it really doesn't matter,” said Kraker.
That mentality, coupled with the satisfaction of surviving and flourishing thru the growing pains, makes this year's journey more special.
“Oh this one was definitely different. I mean it’s a great feeling,” Ranger explained.
“Because we were at our lows we now.. winning is just a lot more sweeter than it was before,” said Kraker.