Photo by Ray Floriani.
The Providence Friars will be looking for their third win in conference play and just their second road win of the season when they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats today (2 p.m. PST). While it has been a difficult season, first-year coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl knew what she was getting into when she signed on and still hopes to finish the season strong.
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Rebuilding is never easy.
Susan Robinson Fruchtl knew it when she signed on. Yet relentless and positive, she pushes ahead, realizing the task at hand but staying optimistic over what has been accomplished.
The 72-56 loss at Seton Hall on Tuesday left Providence at 7-18, 2-10 in the Big East. The two conference victories required added effort: a late January win over ranked Villanova in overtime and two extra sessions needed to get a win in early February at Pittsburgh.
"Our defense was not good tonight," Robinson Fruchtl said following the loss at Seton Hall. "Besides, we let them control the boards."
An individual who has only known resounding success, Robinson Fruchtl is not 'getting used to' the losses; instead she looks at what needs to be addressed.
She was a standout performer at Penn State in the early 1990's. Excelling nationally, she even represented the United States in a few international competitions. She is one of two Penn State players to score 2,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds. Later she served as an assistant at the school as the winning continued. Most recently, she was head coach at St. Francis (PA) the past five seasons. There she went to the Northeast Conference finals three times, claiming two championships.
To rebuild Providence there is a certain way the new coach wants to play.
"For one, we have to rebound better," she said. "But there is just so much work to do. I want to play man to man pressure but really can't too much. We need more depth for that."
Robinson Fruchtl would also get out and play more uptempo offensively. Again, the talent base and lack of depth prevents that.
"We are running a lot of half court sets," she said.
At this juncture, that is the best way to stay relatively competitive.
In the realm of the Big East, a conference filled with 'land mines', Robinson Fruchtl accentuates the positive.
"Each night there is a challenge," she said. "In this league the guards are so fast and quick. There really are no easy games and at the top you have two or three national championship contenders. No other conference can say that."
As rugged as the conference is, the coach uses it as a tool to sell to recruits.
"Good players want to be challenged," she said. "We tell recruits if you want a great education and want to test yourself against outstanding competition, Providence is a place for you."
Robinson Fruchtl said she has made inroads in the talent base with a few early signings. Brianna Edwards, the team's third leading scorer (9.9ppg in conference) is one of two seniors. The other, Jennifer Roncarati, will not play out the season due to student-teaching commitments. So there is an accent on youth. While the coach focuses on the future, she has a plan regarding the rest of the season.
"We want to finish strong," she said. "We want to play as well as we can. We would also like to win a Big East Tournament game. That hasn't been done here in quite some time."
One thing of note has been accomplished: in late-December, Providence knocked off Colorado State and Lafayette to capture the Fordham Holiday Classic. It was the Friars' first in-season tournament championship since 1992.
An accomplishment to build on. A step in a rebuilding process in capable and experienced hands.