April 26, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Navy women's basketball team held its annual team banquet Wednesday night to recognize the individuals who helped the program capture back-to-back Patriot League Tournament titles and advance to its second straight NCAA Tournament.
Navy compiled an 18-14 record during the 2011-12 season and placed third in the Patriot League with a record of 8-6. The league tournament's third-seeded Mids defeated No. 6 Colgate, 66-54, won at No. 2 Lehigh, 64-59, and rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to No. 5 Holy Cross to defeat the Crusaders, 57-48, and become the sixth team in league history to repeat as tournament champions.
Though Patriot League teams have not won an NCAA Tournament game during the current format established during the 1993-94 season, the lone two times a league school has lost its NCAA Tournament game by fewer than 21 points was Navy in 2011 and Navy in 2012. This year the Mids fell to fifth-ranked and eventual Elite Eight qualifier Maryland by the score of 59-44. That effort by Navy came one year after the Mids dropped a 56-43 decision to a No. 10 DePaul team that would advance into the Sweet 16. The Mids have lost their two postseason games by a total of 28 points, while all previous Patriot League programs have lost their NCAA Tournament games by an average of 34.9 points.
Navy is one of just two schools to have won a Patriot League Tournament game in each of the last four seasons, and is one of three programs to have posted four consecutive winning Patriot League seasons. The current run of four winning league seasons in a row by the Mids is a new school record for sustained success, while their current stretch of four consecutive winning seasons overall is one away from tying the school record.
Additionally, Navy has won eight Patriot League Tournament games over the past four seasons, which nearly equals the league tournament victory total (9) by the Mids during their first 17 seasons as members of the league.
All of the players on the team were presented with their NCAA Tournament watch during Wednesday's banquet, while head coach Stefanie Pemper and team captain Erin Edwards (Sr., Hockessin, Del.) unfurled the new 2012 NCAA Tournament banner that will soon hang above Dave Smalley Court in Alumni Hall.
Four individual awards also were presented during the course of the evening. The recipients were selected through voting of the players.
Kara Pollinger (So., Fort Gay, W.Va.) was tabbed as the Most Improved Player on the team. Pollinger went from tallying 34 points, 5 three-point field goals made, 14 assists and 14 rebounds during the 2010-11 season to producing 268 points, 46 three pointers, 89 assists and 145 rebounds this season. She scored in double figures 12 times this year, including a 24-point outburst -- the most points scored by any Mid in a game this season -- against Siena in which she connected on all five of her three-point attempts and connect on all but one of her 10 overall field goal attempts. Pollinger would rank among the top-10 players in the league in assists, three-point field goals made, three-point field goal percentage and defensive rebounds. She scored in double figures in each of Navy's three Patriot League Tournament victories to be named to the all-tournament team.
Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) was selected as the team's Best Defensive Player. Membreno, who often drew the toughest defensive assignment on the team, spearheaded a Navy defense that held 30 of its 32 opponents to no more than 59 points in a game, including a Maryland team that was held to 18 points below its season average that would end the season ranked fourth in the country for scoring prowess. Overall, Navy held foes to just 52.5 points a game, a mark that set a new school record, led the Patriot League (for the first time since 2000) and ranked 10th nationally. Individually, Membreno led Navy in both steals (41) and defensive rebounds (153), while also ranking third on the squad in scoring (9.1 PPG) and second in field goal percentage (43.0%). After garnering Second-Team All-Patriot League honors for the first time, Membreno would average 10.0 points and 8.0 rebounds a game during the league tournament to be named to her second consecutive All-Patriot League Tournament team.
Edwards was awarded the program's Pride Award. The captain of and lone senior on the team, hers was the last voice the Mids heard before taking to the court at the start of both the game and the second half. Edwards led the Patriot League this season in three-point field goal percentage (40.2%) and, for the second consecutive season, in three-point field goal percentage during league play (39.6%). She ranked third on the team with 37 three-point field goals made, with many of her triples coming at key moments; she would drill a three pointer just before the halftime buzzer to pull the Mids to within one point of Army in an eventual 58-56 win by Navy in Annapolis, then connected on treys on back-to-back possessions to extend Navy's lead over Army from four points to 10 points with a little more than two minutes remaining in the Star Game win by the Mids at West Point.
Edwards ranks fourth in school history with 116 career games played, but had never led the Mids or shared the team lead in scoring in a game until doing so in three of Navy's final five games of the 2011-12 season. This included her connecting on four three-point field goals to help her tally a career-high 15 points in Navy's regular season finale against Bucknell. The game marked the third time this season and the fifth time in her career in which she converted four three-point field goals in a game, as well as the eighth time this year and the 16th time in her career in which she scored in double figures. Edwards ends her career in a tie for second place for the highest three-point field goal percentage by a Mid (38.7%), as the school record holder with seven Patriot League Tournament victories and in fourth place with 40 career Patriot League regular season wins recorded by a Mid.
Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) was named as the recipient of Adm. Charles R. Larson Award, which is presented to the team's most valuable player. Geif entered Navy's first game of the season as the reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year and Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player, as well as the 2011-12 Pre-Season Patriot League Player of the Year. Despite those lofty expectations and attention they garnered her, Geif improved upon nearly all of her statistical averages from the 2010-11 campaign. Her tallies of 11.1 points per game (led Navy), 145 field goals made (led Navy), 19 games of scoring in double figures (led Navy), leading or sharing the team lead in scoring 14 times (led Navy), field goal percentage of 51.2 percent (led Navy), 15 blocks (second on team) and 30 steals (third on team) all surpassed her respective totals from her freshman season, while her rebounding average of 7.8 caroms a game (led Navy) left her just one-tenth of rebound shy of matching her average of a year ago. The biggest improvement Geif made this year from last was in her passing; her 81 assists this season (second on team) more than doubled her tally of 39 that she had recorded as a freshman. All of those numbers allowed Geif to garner Second-Team All-Patriot League laurels.
Geif also displayed the ability to rise to the importance of the game. She has scored in double figures in seven of her eight post season games, while averaging 13.6 points and 8.4 rebounds a game and connecting on 56.6 percent of her field goal attempts and 74.2 percent of her free throw attempts during Patriot League and NCAA Tournament games as a freshman and sophomore. Geif was named as the 2012 Patriot League Tournament MVP -- becoming just the third player in league history to have won the accolade multiple times -- after closing out Navy's three-game run to the league title with a career-high 22 points in the championship game against Holy Cross. One week later, she connected on 7 of 10 field goal attempts in scoring 14 points and adding a Navy-best seven rebounds in Navy's NCAA Tournament game against the Terrapins.
Adm. Larson himself was in attendance at the banquet and presented Geif with the award.