After three years of change, seniors ready to lead by example

Beth Wilberding

Imagine spending an entire year of your life with one person. This person is supposed to be your mentor and your coach. You look to him for guidance, praise and criticism. You expect him to be with you for your college career.

But then he leaves.

Now you have to start your career over with a totally new coach. And you’ll learn a new style of play. And this coach will become your mentor.

But again, he leaves.

The revolving door of coaches is familiar to Western women’s basketball seniors Elisha Ford, Leah Lineberry and Leslie Logsdon.

In their years at Western, they played under three coaches before they finally found stability with second-year head coach Mary Taylor Cowles.

“Coming in as a freshman, it’s been really hard going from coach to coach,” said Logsdon, who redshirted her freshman year.

The women began their Western careers under veteran coach Steve Small. When he retired in June 2001, he was replaced by Shawn Campbell.

However, near the end of their sophomore season, Campbell resigned under pressure from the university because of his behavior on and off the court.

They finished the year with assistant and interim coach Marti Whitmore.

With new coaches came new styles of play.

“It’s been hard learning different systems,” Lineberry said. “As a team, we’ve come together for what Lady Topper basketball is about.”

Three coaches later, the seniors said they have found their niche with Cowles.

“Having Coach Cowles come back is one of the best moves the university has made,” Logsdon said.

Lineberry said Cowles helped bring the team together in a way that none of her other coaches had.

“I think last year was the first time I felt like we had a stable team,” she said.

Last season, the Lady Toppers went 22-9, with only two conference losses. And the team went on to win the Sun Belt Conference championship for the first time in eight years.

As they adjust to their last season on the Hill, the players are ready to take on bigger leadership roles – especially with five freshmen on the roster.

“I think one of the main things Elisha and I both have to do is lead by encouraging people,” Lineberry said. “We like to lead by example.”

Logsdon, one of seven guards, said she’ll help junior point guard Camryn Whitaker with the three freshmen guards and “be more vocal leaders.”

Cowles is already impressed.

“We’ve got to have leadership and guidance,” Cowles said. “First and foremost, teach our freshmen this is Lady Topper basketball.”

Last year’s success is also a motivating factor for the seniors. They don’t mind holding the target as the No. 1 team in the Sun Belt.

“We’ll be just fine,” said Lineberry, who averaged 4.5 points per game along with three rebounds last season. “Everybody’s very excited about being the team to beat.”

Logsdon, who also returns as the team and conference’s leading scorer at 17.5 points per game, said the team is ready to defend its title.

“Coming into this season,” she said, “we know every team’s going to come after us.”

And with a promising season ahead of them and hope for a conference championship repeat, the seniors are ready to put any past coaching problems behind them.

“We look toward the future,” Lineberry said, “not the past.”

Reach Beth Wilberding at [email protected]