By Luke Feliciano | Sports Editor
Melanie Moore wants to change the culture of Xavier women’s basketball, and she seeks to revive the Musketeers’ winning ways.
Moore enters her first season at the helm of the program in her first year as a head coach. She has a track record of winning, having been a part of 156 wins while on the coaching staff at Michigan for the last seven seasons.
Altering the cultural landscape starts at the practice level. Moore has introduced a defense-oriented concept called the “X factor,” which tracks the top performer in practice each day. Players accumulate points by securing loose balls, taking charges and grabbing rebounds, among other things.
Conversely, players lose points by committing turnovers or missing layups. Moore hopes that this system will contribute to winning basketball games.
“I’m really excited, really proud of this group,” Moore said. “They’re working hard, they are buying into the new culture that our staff is about every day … We try to make (practice) a fun environment, an exciting environment and a very passionate environment.”
It took a bit of transitioning for the players to become accustomed to the new system, but they are beginning to welcome the new methods.
“It definitely was a change. It took a little bit for us to kind of stop resisting and buy into what (Moore) was doing and what she was saying,” senior guard Ashley Gomez said. “Now, coming into school and coming into the summer, we were all bought in and ready to go … It was a hard transition, but we figured it out pretty quickly.”
Moore employs positive reinforcement. She wants to encourage players to play at their highest level while maintaining an upbeat message.
“Very energetic, really positive,” junior guard Aaliyah Dunham said about Moore’s coaching style. “Never really focused on the negative … She’s always trying to focus on what you could do better for the future. Very hard on you, but at times it’s good (because) it lets you know how it is.”
“She hardly ever will call anybody out on something negative in front of the whole team unless it’s something the whole team needs to hear,” Gomez added. “I really appreciate that on her side, just reinforcing us positively in front of the team. I think it carries over that we start reinforcing each other positively.”
The Musketeers return the core of their roster from last season, including junior forward A’riana Gray, who averaged a double-double per game last year with 13.9 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game. She was the team leader in both of those categories and started all 30 games in 2018.
Xavier also returns its second-leading scorer from last year, senior guard Na’Teshia Owens, who averaged 11.5 points per game.
“I think that’s the nice thing about having nine returners,” Moore said about the team’s cohesion. “They know each other better than we know them … That’s what we try to do every day in practice – change up the teams and see who’s jelling together better than the other … To this groups credit, they are all jelling really well.”
With several returning players on the roster and the team’s mentality shifted in the right direction, the Musketeers are hoping to turn things around and set the program up for success.
Perhaps this success could set the stage for a future Elite Eight run, which has happened twice in the team’s history.