Churchill Coach Pat Fisher entered Tuesday's 4A/3A West Region quarterfinal against No. 13 Springbrook in an unfamiliar role: the underdog.
After reaching the state championship game in three of the past four seasons -- with state titles in 2002 and 2003 -- Churchill is closing out what Fisher describes as a rebuilding year. (Tuesday's playoff games ended too late to be included in this edition).
Churchill Coach Pat Fisher hugs All-Met Alis Freeman after the Bulldogs won their second straight state title in 2003. Two years later, Fisher's goals are more modest.
(Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
The Bulldogs (9-14 overall, 5-7 in the 4A West) have just one senior on their roster. After losing a combined 14 games the previous four seasons, Churchill has endured losing streaks of seven and six games this year.
"For some the season has been a disappointment, but as a whole, I am not disappointed in how we've played," Fisher said. "You have to be realistic about personnel and goals."
Fisher said she stressed game-by-game goals of cutting down turnovers and improving field goal percentage instead of discussing postseason dreams. With a roster featuring just one player who saw regular playing time last season, senior Rachel Sushner, Fisher said she hoped to avoid any pressure to live up to the success of past teams.
The Bulldogs claimed back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003 after reaching the title game in 2001. Several players from those teams have gone on to play college basketball, including 2003 All-Met Alis Freeman (Towson), Morgan Hatten (UMBC) and Chloe Evans (Marymount, N.Y.).
"I hope [past championships] didn't add any pressure to this team but I'm not sure how they could avoid it," Fisher said. "You want to see each team by itself and you don't want them to have to live up to last year's success. I hope they didn't feel pressure from me."
With nearly the team's entire roster back and several players from a talented junior varsity squad competing for spots, Fisher said she expects the Bulldogs to be back among the county's elite teams next season.
And that would mean that March would once again become Fisher's busiest time of the year. In addition to guiding her basketball teams through the playoffs, she also serves as the school's softball coach.
"It will be very strange for me [if we lose to Springbrook]," Fisher said. "Softball practice began today [Tuesday]. Normally I have to coach two teams at once."