Previously: Maggie Lonergan's basketball team continues to win after one of her players quits in a huff. But with a razor-thin roster, the Cardinals cannot afford a single injury. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Catholic university women's basketball coach Maggie Lonergan paces back and forth in front of her team, running a hand through her hair so quickly that the gesture looks painful. Though the Cardinals are handily beating Salisbury University, you wouldn't know it by watching Maggie. She's taken off her black sweater as she lectures the players at the halftime break, and it's almost possible to see the veins pulsing in her muscular arms.
(Photo by D.A. Peterson)
"Our intensity level cannot let down," says the 32-year-old coach. "We're up -- but 11 points is nothing to this team."
Maggie is standing in a small room at Catholic's athletic center, trying to fire up her players for the second half. But the person most fired up is Maggie herself; the young women greet their coach's oratory with little more than yawns. One of the guards rests her chin in her hands; a forward rocks back in her chair; another guard fiddles with her sneakers.
It's been exactly five weeks since the Cardinals lost a game -- a streak that has turned the whole season around for them. "I was extremely depressed after our losses" early in the season, Maggie says. "Those were tough nights. Now it's still hard to sleep at night, but now it's not a depression thing. It's like a Christmas Eve, and you can't get to bed because you're so excited to go play the next game."
Poised for her 12th straight win tonight, Maggie worries that her team might lose its edge. "I feel like I'm using half my energy as a cheerleader," she says. The Capital Athletic Conference tournament is around the corner, and she will measure this season's success by how her team performs there. Maggie's goal all along has been to reach the final.
She glances at the time. Five minutes left before the start of the second half. "Okay, bring it in," she says to the team. The players huddle around her.
"Intensity, on three," she shouts. "One, two, three."
"Intensity," the Cardinals tepidly shout back.
On the court, the Cardinals shrug off their lethargy and play hard. Salisbury never mounts a comeback, but that doesn't persuade Maggie to chill out. She turns furiously red when the referee calls a foul on Catholic's center, Haley Jones.
"How can they call that? How can they call that?" Maggie rants at her assistant coach Thom Manco. She's no more than six inches from his face. Manco, who has been an assistant since Maggie took over the program four years ago, is used to playing yin to her yang. He watches the game placidly while his boss vents.
Manco says he doesn't mind being yelled at: "It's part of being the good assistant. You just sit there, and you take it."
"I need to scream at him so that I'm not screaming at the officials," Maggie explains. "I need to scream at him so that I'm not screaming at the players."