Q & A with Head Women's Basketball Coach Gail Striegler

July 24, 2006

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Entering her eighth season her eighth season at the helm of the UCF women's basketball program in 2006-07, Gail Striegler will guide a mix of talented young players and experienced veterans through a rigorous second season in Conference USA. In July, the head coach talked about the team and what it will take to move to the next level.

What do new assistant coaches Anthony Crocitto and Saudia Roundtree bring to the staff?

Both coaches are high energy people. Saudia brings with her a wealth of high level basketball experience after playing at Georgia, where she was named national player of the year. She will work with the guards and hopefully continue to raise their level of play. We have five freshmen coming in at the position and she'll have her hands full helping them learn our system. Saudia's contacts in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia will help broaden our recruiting base

Anthony's strong ties to the Northeast will also help bolster recruiting. He has a great personality and brings a tireless work ethic to the recruiting coordinator position. He had a very impressive season last year at Hofstra, where he helped guide the program to its most successful season ever.

We've brought in two coaches that have been successful in all aspects of basketball and will help us to continue building our program.

How did you address the issue of depth at the post position?

Our players are putting in a lot of work this summer becoming stronger and improving upon their weaknesses. Keunta Miles saw a lot of minutes last year and will be a mainstay in the four spot. Julianna Gomes and Courtney Stroud will both be vying for minutes at the five spot. In order for us to be successful, we will need for both players to step up their presence in the paint.

Elizabeth Fieser, who was sidelined by illness early last season, brings versatility to the four spot. She can knock down the three and has been working to improve her effectiveness on the block. Jackie Akers has been working hard over the summer. I think that she will show improvement because she is going to feel more comfortable with the offenses and her role in their execution.

Both Kristin Thomas and Randall Hurst, who we brought in at the guard position, also have the ability to swing into the four spot.

We, as a coaching staff, are going to look to make some changes offensively that will work more effectively with the players' strengths. We may run more of a motion offense where there is no true five-player needed.

How much of a difference does it make having Celeste Hudson and Lashaunda Slade back in the lineup?

We lost much of our depth when Celeste and Shae Shae were out of the lineup. Basically, we were without our starting point guard and shooting guard. With them back and healthy, those positions are solidified with experienced players.

How is the backcourt shaping up?

There will be no lack of depth at guard. In addition to Celeste and Shae Shae, we also have Francine Houston and Amber Long returning. The freshmen guards that we signed are not only a talented group, but they also bring size to the position. We saw a lot of big guards in our first year in C-USA, so we are trying to match up with them. That is not to say that players like Shae Shae and Francine aren't able to contribute on the court, but it is easier when you have bigger guards to be able to see the court differently and make the pass to the inside.

Experienced players like Celeste, Shae Shae, Francine and Amber will set the bar high for the newcomers. By the middle of the season, we hope some of the freshmen are challenging the veterans for playing time.

Last year, a different player seemed to step up in every game. Are you hoping to have one go-to player on offense?

Consistency is the key to our team's success this year. Everyone is going to feel like part of the team because they know they must fulfill their role. It isn't about getting the best out of one player, but the whole team. We can't have a player score 29 points one night and only four the next game. Our team is going to be successful when four or five people are able to put up 10 to 12 points every single night.

Prior to last season you said that travel and the competition level were going to be the two biggest adjustments to the transition into Conference USA. After playing in the league for a year, would you agree with that assessment?

I do. The travel and the Friday-Sunday game schedule was certainly an adjustment. This year the conference is going to a Thursday-Saturday schedule which will really benefit our team by allowing the players a true day away from competition.

Our returners have played the grueling Conference USA schedule and will be able to help the newcomers adjust. With the season starting a week earlier, we don't want the players to suffer from burnout, so the day of rest is especially important.

With a year behind you in C-USA, how can you better prepare the team for this season?

It all starts with preparation. We now know our opponents and can better foresee the situations we are entering.

With the injuries last year, we didn't have enough depth at any position. The returning post players all have a year of experience and are working at becoming stronger and more effective on the block, so I think we'll be better at that position even with the loss of Shelby Weber. With five new guards coming in to supplement the veterans, we are looking at a totally different team.

We are going to take advantage of our depth by pressing more and really pushing the ball for an up-tempo game.

Talk about the opponents that you scheduled for the upcoming season.

We are playing some traditionally strong programs - Bowling Green, Florida State and Baylor - in addition to our tough conference schedule. Playing against that level of competition will help teach our team how to play at the highest level. It will also allow us as coaches to know where weaknesses lie before we begin conference play.

The team responded well to the energy of the record-breaking crowd against UTEP last season. How important are the fans in the team's success?

For this team to be successful, we need support from the fans. We expect they will come out and fill the arena every night. We are going to be a better team this year and a fun team to watch because we are going to play more up-tempo.

Look for our "Pack the House" event to be bigger than ever. This season the promotion will take place earlier and we hope to break last year's attendance record.

With the unveiling of the new Convocation Center coming in August 2007, building our fanbase is top priority. We will continue to reach out to the community and sell our program and the university.