The college women's basketball season lasts in the neighborhood of five months. During that span, too many variables can turn a great season into a sub-par outcome.
At NCAA Division I Sacramento State, Parkersburg South grad Kim Stephens and former Glenville State College head coach Bunky Harkleroad are keeping their players humble and hoping the best is yet to come following a school-record 10-1 start.
"It's a long season and you never know what can happen," said Stephens, who serves as one of Harkleroad's assistants. "This team is capable of being competitive with everyone because they have big hearts and they bring a lot of energy every time they step on the court.
"We just need to make sure the girls stay hungry. We were picked eighth or ninth in the (Big Sky Conference), so we remind them that the league coaches didn't think we were very good and we use that as momentum."
Sacramento State established a school record with its eighth win in a row during last Saturday's 91-81 win against Montana. The system Harkleroad implemented at GSC has resulted in nine games of 90 points or more for the Hornets' offense.
Sacramento State ranks third in the nation at 93.4 points per game.
"These girls had played fast in the past, but when we took over this season we took it to a whole new level," Stephens said. "When we got here, we only had a month until our first game. It didn't click that first scrimmage - they had big eyes, but they have done a great job."
Sacramento State is opening eyes as a mid-major and is currently ranked No. 18 in the CollegeInsider.com poll. Tonight, the Hornets host Northern Arizona and play at home again Saturday against Southern Utah.
"The seniors on this team would have been freshmen when I was a senior, so I am able to relate to them," said the 25-year-old Stephens. "There is not too big of an age gap. It's nice that I can talk about basketball and about what they watched on TV the night before or what they saw on Twitter.
"Bunky does a good job balancing as a coach. When he is off the the court, he jokes and laughs, but on the court he is all serious and expects the most from you. That is something I admire and hope I can do when I become a head coach."
Stephens has coaching in her blood. Her father, Scott Stephens, is the head coach of the Parkersburg South girls team. By playing for her father and working under Harkleroad, she knows she has plenty of learning ahead to achieve her goal.
"I always remember watching my dad's work ethic and that is something I admire," Kim Stephens said. "He would come home from working all day then he would get right to basketball.
"He was very passionate and that is something that has rubbed off on me, and that is teaching young people."
Contact Kerry Patrick at email@example.com