BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Year two of the Alisa Kresge era for the UVM Women's hoops program ended with an America East quarterfinal loss to Maine. A five-game losing streak to close the campaign putting a sour note on what was otherwise an encouraging sign of things to come.
"We have a little more depth to save some legs, and I think we win some of those late games in the season," said Kresge. "That's on us and we're gonna make sure that our players have that depth this year."
Even with the late-season slide that cost the Cats a chance to host a playoff game, Vermont's 12 wins were the most the program has recorded in a decade. Freshmen Emma Utterback and Delaney Richason had a big hand in that, playing key roles alongside veterans like Hanna Crymble and Josie Larkins .
"With what Emma and Delaney were thrown into this year as freshmen, it's a credit to what they were able to do," Kresge said. "But I think they experienced what it takes, the toll on their body, and as freshmen, learning a whole new system and the demands of college academics, I thought they handled it with complete grace and I think it's only gonna help us in the long run."
Now they'll have the sharpshooting Larkins back as a senior next year, but what they won't have is the program's sixth-leading scorer all-time in Crymble. But even with the massive production they're losing, Kresge sees somewhat of an opportunity.
"She was fun to watch and she was fun to coach and she's gonna be missed, but we want to try and make up for what we're losing by having more of a balance," Kresge said. "So if we could have five players in double digits every night, now it's kind of 'who do we take away?'"
The UVM women were able to complete their season before the coronavirus shut everything down, but that doesn't mean the program hasn't been affected by it.
"Right now we should be out on the road at big AAU events looking at players live, and obviously that's not the case," Kresge said. "So really it's a learning curve in the recruiting process. It's getting to know players via Zoom, showing them what we have to offer via Zoom rather than that face to face contact."
Building those relationships with potential recruits is everything as the program seeks to build up the necessary depth to compete in the America East. There is however one unexpected benefit UVM may be able to draw from this situation: the digital renderings of the new Tarrant Center might stand out a little more when no other schools can show off their already in-place facilities in person .
"We are definitely showing those off right and left," Kresge said. "The future's bright at Vermont for many reasons and that is a piece that is really exciting. I think that also shows how Vermont handles basketball, they're serious about it, they're serious about athletics."
As for this fall, those recruits are already committed. NCAA rules prevent Kresge from talking about them until they've signed letters of intent and have been admitted by the university, but for the newcomers and returners alike, Kresge believes the time they're now forced to spend away from the court is driving them to stay in shape and keep improving however they can.
"I think players that have never missed the game because they've been going from AAU to high school to AAU and it never stopped, I think they're hungry," Kresge said. "I think they're missing it. They miss each other, they miss working out and so we haven't really had to have those conversations, it's really natural. So I can't wait to be back together for many reasons but I think our players are really hungry and they're not willing to waste any of this time."
And that should pay dividends whenever the Cats are able to return for year three of the Kresge era.