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UVM women's basketball coach on her team's incredible season

A female basketball player with a blond ponytail and UVM jersey takes a shot while other players look on. A big crowd watches in the background.
Ryan Manley
University of Vermont
Senior Emma Utterback takes a shot during the UVM women's semifinal game against UMBC.

The University of Vermont's women's basketball team is on a seemingly unstoppable roll. The Catamounts are on a sixteen-game winning streak, heading into the America East conference championship game on Friday. That game will mark the first time Vermont hosts the America East final since 2001. There's also a March Madness berth on the line.

Host Mikaela Lefrak spoke to head coach Alisa Kresge about her team's on- and off-court chemistry, and their prospects in the upcoming game. A partial transcript of their conversation is below, edited for length and clarity.

Lefrak: At the start of the season, did you know that this team had the right stuff? Or have you seen a transition in the team over the course of the past few months?

Kresge: I think a little bit of both. This group worked really, really hard in the offseason, which excited me. We have such so many gym rats. So I felt I felt that was good thing. And then the season started and I felt like every game, there was a little inconsistency as far as offense, but I felt like everything we asked them or challenged them, they really took it to heart and they tried to get better. So that excited me, but you don't really know until you're on game day, and you're going through it. But I was excited about this group. Could I have guessed that we'd be sitting where we are now? Not necessarily.

Lefrak: Heading into this big game on Friday, you've won 16 games in a row. Have you ever been a part of a run like this before? What's it feel like?

Kresge: I've been part of some really successful teams. But nothing like this — not a 16-game win streak. This has been pretty special. I don't want to drop the ball. I don't want to be the reason our players aren't ready for games. I just want to make sure that I'm doing everything for them and setting them up for success.

And everyone keeps telling me to enjoy it. But it's hard to enjoy it when you feel like you've got 1000 things to make sure you have the team ready for. Maybe after, I'll sit back and really think about all the fun we had during it.

Lefrak: Whatever you're doing seems to be working — you were recently named the America East Coach of the Year. What is your strategy during a game for communicating with players?

Kresge: I think each team is usually a little bit different. Everybody learns differently, everyone responds differently. This group, I definitely can coach. But they're also a group that you just got to keep giving them the information and telling them that you believe in them, and then they figure it out. It's really not a group that you need to go in there and kind of lose your mind on. You've just got to tell them what you want of them. They really want to do it for their teammates. They want to do it for us.

That's been my mentality — is try to stay cool. I am actually a very passionate, intense player. So as a coach, I've kind of had to mold with the team that I have. I'm going to bring what they need of me, and that's just to continually coach them and tell them what we're looking for and how to go execute.

Lefrak: What's the team's connection with the community been like this season, especially as you all have been so successful?

Kresge: The atmosphere has been electric. I mean, I thought the roof was going to come down last game when Emma [Utterback, a senior from Indiana] went coast-to-coast and made a layup. It's been so awesome. The community's incredible. They really have brought the energy. It's so fun. I couldn't thank the community enough for their support. And we're hoping that they're out there on Friday to bring us that extra energy that they've been bringing in all season long with with this run we've been on.

Broadcast on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.