Stringer gets team ready with rugged conditioning test
Though the season has not yet begun for the Rutgers women's basketball team, the Scarlet Knights' 2009 squad already did something that no other team did before.
Every single player passed head coach C. Vivian Stringer's grueling strength and conditioning test already. The test, administered at the beginning of every season, is a strenuous measure of the athletes' physical condition. Often, players who do not pass the test are unable to play.
Sophomore guard Nikki Speed had only one regret about the milestone.
"I wish everyone had a camera — five of us, half the team, passed the first time, including myself. The second time, four people passed and the final time when we needed just one more, everyone was there to help them," Speed said. "It's huge that we don't have to have someone sitting out of practice because they didn't pass the test and … we all were there."
The test is so intimidating that it still inspires dread in the hearts of upperclassmen.
"Coach Stringer's conditioning test makes me antsy every year," said senior guard Brittany Ray. "I've been here for four years and every year when I have to take that test, I'm a little nervous. [The fact that the whole team passed] says a lot about our teams mental toughness."
Two seasons removed from a conference championship, the Knights find themselves in a precarious position after their noted offseason departures.
Tabbed sixth in the Big East going into the season, Stringer said the team must employ constant vigilance, as there are many teams gunning for the Knights.
"Everyone will enjoy hunting us — we will be the hunted," Stringer said. "And there's a big difference between being the hunter and being the hunted."
Though RU has seen success over the past several years, it only added more fuel to the fire for its opponents.
The Knights face a relentless schedule; they are thrown right into the fire in their season opener when they host No. 2 Stanford. Even before Big East play opens in January, RU has tilts with No. 25 Texas, No. 22 Florida and No. 18 Tennessee. Combine that with a conference schedule that features two teams in the national top 10 and two others in the top 25, and the Knights have a tough road ahead to get far into the postseason.
With no number one scorer who can create space like Epiphanny Prince, the Knights will work as a single unit more than ever to find success.
Heading into the year, Stringer said the team already has a strong bond, and she is taking pleasure in coaching the squad.
"I'm comfortable around them — they're the kind of players that you can say ‘Let's go have some coffee,' or ‘Let's go have a sandwich,' or ‘Come on over to the house.' I just feel comfortable around them," Stringer said.
While the team may not be able to put up the same offensive fireworks as they have in seasons past, the superstar deficit forces the Knights to play a team style of basketball now more than ever.
"As long as they don't take an attitude with one each other or give up on each other, but I think strength-wise we can prove something," Stringer said. "We have a chance to prove what it's like to be the ultimate team."