bleedCrimson.net: How have your practices been going since the exhibition game and what are some things you've been working on in preparation for the season opener with Houston on Friday night?
Mark Trakh: Practices have been going well, we've got a good group of kids that are working hard. We've worked on some things but we've still got a long long way to go. Hopefully we can go into Houston and compete.
bc.net: What are some things specifically that you saw from the exhibition game that you were pleased with?
MT: That would have been an easy game to lose, we were nine down to a D2 school at our place, they're playing great. Sometimes those are the hardest games to win but we came back, won the game, kids made some big shots. We've got a ton of stuff to work on, they are only a D2 school but it's better than losing to a D2 school. We came back from nine points down, I think they know that's in them now but we've got to get a lot better if we want to compete with quality D1 schools for sure.
bc.net: A lot of times you're able to learn a lot more from a close game like that than you are a blowout. What were some things that the team learned that they'll need to work on?
MT: I think they learned not to quit, not to give up. We were down nine twice in that game. Just keep on playing hard and keep on working. Shots might not fall, we might be turning the ball over but if we keep on working good things will happen. We could have won the game in regulation but we turned around and won it in overtime.
Now, some stuff we've got to work on, we're turning the ball over too much right now. We can't turn it over 25 times a game. We've gotta defend better, we've gotta execute better. It's only November, there's a lot of stuff we've gotta work on but we've gotta do that. The main thing we've got to concentrate on right now, we can't concentrate on we need to win or get off to a quick start. We just need to work hard and keep their confidence up, coach them up and keep working hard to get better and not worry about anything else. We've just got to keep working to get better and coaching them up and just working on their confidence and get them playing hard all the time and just concentrate on the process of these things and they'll wind up being a better team in January and February.
bc.net: You're implementing the motion offense with the team, what were your thoughts on the first real in-game test of their understanding of the offense and being able to run it?
MT: We ran it very well against their straight man-to-man. We got off to a 9-1 start and it was against straight man. They called timeout and adjusted and they started switching everything and that's where we struggled. I knew we would. I wanted to get the basics in before we started working on how we counter switching and so since the exhibition we've been working on attacking a switching defense with a motion offense so we'll be better prepared now. Up to the point where they started switching we ran it pretty darn good. When they started switching we struggled because we didn't have all the counters in just yet so I think we'll be better now. It's not an easy offense to learn, it's going to take time and as I said, it's going to look a lot better in January and February than it did now.
bc.net: How would you grade the performance of freshman Hannah Womack in the exhibition?
MT: Hannah Womack had a good game bringing the ball up against pressure and she got fouled a lot. What she's gotta learn now is when she brings it up to recognize the defense and get us in our offense. But she did a great job handling the pressure and bringing the ball up and making free throws and making some big shots. I was happy for her. Hopefully she can continue that against Houston.
bc.net: Kaitlyn Soto is your starting point guard. How would you evaluate her first game as the starting point guard?
MT: She's a competitor. She's done well. She's been fighting injuries the past couple of months but I'm happy with her. She's done a good job, she's a leader, she'll get us in our offense, she'll hit an open three. I'm looking forward to coaching her all year.
bc.net: Heading into the season you've got a lot of players who are vying for playing time. What are your goals for the first few games and trying to narrow down your rotation?
MT: We're probably going to play eight to ten a lot. I still don't know who that eighth, ninth or tenth people are going to be. Camila Rosen is looking really good out there, Andrea Chenier is looking good. Erica Sanchez hit some big shots in that New Mexico Highlands game, she's done some good things. I'm not set yet, I think we played 13 in the exhibition. I'm not set yet and we're going to give everybody a fair chance and see what they can do over the next few weeks.
bc.net: What do you know about Houston and what have you seen from them, obviously they lost quite a few players from last year's outstanding team.
MT: They lost quite a few players but they reloaded with seven really good freshmen. They're athletic, they work hard, they've got a shooter named Button, she's a really great player, had 21 against us last year here. They run a dribble-drive offense and if we can't contain the ball and guard people we're going to be in trouble. We've gotta guard people and keep them off the boards. They won their exhibition game by almost 30 points and they shot the ball 77 times and got 30 offensive rebounds off those 77 shots. That's a lot of offensive rebounds. We've gotta keep them off the boards for sure.
bc.net: They have a standout point guard in Porsche Landry, what can you do offensively to disrupt her game and in turn disrupt the Houston offense?
MT: We can't come out and pressure her because we don't have any athletes that can guard her in the open court so we're going to have to back off, keep everything in front of us, keep her from getting to the rim and force her to shoot the jump shot. I think that's what we have to do. Just be aware of where she is and be aware of where Button is. Button is a great shooter and can get to the basket also. We've got to play a lot of containment defense and keep everything in front of us.
bc.net: What are some of the challenges of opening on the road versus opening at home?
MT: I'd like to open up at home but that's how the schedule plays out and you've gotta play it somewhere. We've just gotta ingrain it into the kids that it doesn't matter where we play. It really doesn't matter where we open up. We'll open up two days later at home but you've gotta win at home, you've gotta win on the road so it really doesn't matter where we play or what venue it is. That's more a mental thing. You just go out and play the team in front of you.
bc.net: On Monday night you open the home schedule against Idaho State, what do you know about them?
MT: They were 18-12 last year, 9-7 in conference, they beat Utah last year and they get everybody back from that team. They run the motion offense very well, very disciplined, very structured. My hope is we can get a huge crowd out for that game, three or four thousand people would be great and help the kids play as hard as they can. The schedule is very good, there's a lot of good teams on it. That's going to be a tough game, Idaho State is very very good. We play a good Houston team, two days later we come home and play a good Idaho State team and two days after that we play a pretty good Texas-El Paso team. We just need to concentrate on playing hard, playing good defense, executing, rebounding and just try to get out there and compete.