The Pitt women's basketball team did not win a Big East game last season, going 0-16 en route to an 8-22 overall record, the worst for the program since coach Agnus Berenato's first season in 2003-04, when the Panthers won six games.
With seven of her top eight scorers returning, Berenato has a more experienced team for her 10th season, but it's still not an ideal situation.
Berenato is without a senior on her roster for the second consecutive season. She went through last season without any juniors or seniors.
"Last year we had the youngest team in the nation," Berenato said. "To be the youngest is daunting. It just came out that we'll be in the top five youngest again, but I'm really excited because we're a year older."
Berenato has five juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen on her roster. Junior guard Abby Dowd said the losing was difficult to deal with, but it taught her teammates some valuable lessons.
"Last season was definitely trying, but in a way that motivates you and propels you forward," Dowd said. "I just feel like losing, while it's definitely not ideal, there were so many things we learned from it. It can be construed in a positive way to bring us into the season."
Sophomore point guard Brianna Kiesel, the team's top returning scorer, is expecting a big turnaround season.
"Even though we went 0-16 we were in every game," she said. "Every game we got a little better. Every game learned more about each other. This year, we have a brand new slate. We have much better chemistry. We're so much more confident. Last year was a struggle. This year we're not trying to struggle."
Berenato is pinning her hopes on Kiesel, who gained the respect of all Big East coaches last season as a freshman when she averaged 13.6 points per game.
"I'm excited about the energy, the enthusiasm, and the work ethic," Berenato said. "I think between Bri, Abby, and Ashlee [Anderson], we do have leadership. I couldn't say that last year.
"But, to go in the Big East and to come up short-handed in every Big East game and still have your point guard voted unanimous All- Big East freshman [team] was amazing. I have Bri back, and she is playing that way. Last year she didn't know if she was coming or going. This year, though, I have said to her many times, 'This is your team. It's not my team, it's not Pitt's team, it's not the community's team, it's not Ashlee's team or Abby's team, but Bri, this is your team. You're the coach on the court.' And I think Bri is really excited about that."pittsports