By WES HOST
Mary Washington’s women’s basketball team has been nothing but impressive this season. The team has set plenty of milestones this season but none more impressive than Deena Applebury notching her 200th win as head coach.
Applebury grew up in the small, rural town of Versailles, Mo. She developed as a basketball player at Versailles High School. From there she went to the University of Missouri-St. Louis where she got a Bachelor of Science in Education. Applebury went back and got a masters degree in secondary education four years later.
She started coaching women’s basketball upon graduation. She had grown up in the sport, “I’ve played basketball since I was in the third grade so my dad was a huge basketball fan and just seemed like the natural thing to do,” she said. After seven years, she found her home at Mary Washington.
Her first season at Mary Washington (2003-2004) was dismal; her squad went 12-13 en route to a short season. The next season she turned the team around, going 23-7 winning the Capital Athletic Conference championship and going to the second round in the NCAA tournament. Her 200th win came in a 59-42 defeated over York College who at the time was undefeated as well. To her it was just another game, another win. I don’t think about that stuff…my goals are not to win 200 or 300 games, my goal is to try to get my team to play every single night up to the best of their ability and to really get out and get after it.”
Out of the 200 wins, the “one that stands out the most is our third place NCAA game against New York University in the final four (2006-2007 season).”They had lost the first game in the semifinal, not qualifying them for the final.
“The fact that the kids came out and they were determined they were not gonna lose two (games) in a row, even though we’re not gonna be national champions. They still went out that game and played very well and very hard,” Applebury said.
Coaches have different personalities. Some are encouragers, some our enforcers but Applebury’s main one is that of a motivator.
She said she has an “ability to motivate each player, in a lot of cases differently,” which acts as her biggest strength. “Each player often times has different things that motivate them, it’s a matter of me getting on their level and understanding what it is that makes them kick.”
Applebury connects with players understanding what their personal goals are and what they are trying to accomplish.
“Every player is different; every player has a different attitude, every player has a different personality, something that motivates them that is unique from the rest of the team,” she said.
She has done a great job at motivating her team this season thus far. They are currently 18-0 and have outscored opponents by an average of 23 points. Being undefeated does have its challenges though.
She explained that her team has to be “able to maintain focus every single night, you don’t want the kids to get too ahead of themselves or too confident.”
The Lady Eagles have seven games left on their schedule and that doesn’t include a rigorous postseason. While Applebury’s attitude is confident, she’s not quick to brag about her team’s past accomplishments.
“We have to bring it, our opponents are going to bring their best game against us and were going to have to match that intensity and be prepared for it,” she said.
With the success the Lady Eagles have achieved this season so far, the thought of a National Championship inevitable.
She said, “We’re really just taking it game by game. I mean obviously that is in the back of every body’s head, these older kids have been to the NCAA tournament only the freshman and sophomores haven’t been”
Applebury doesn’t look at this job as a stepping stone, or temporary gig, “Coach[ing] is what I want to do,” she said.