A Time To Win: Players And System In Place For Combs

Matt Baker

By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern

Coach Beth Combs has been like a misplaced maestro the last two seasons.

When she joined Northwestern in 2004, Combs took over a team of players she did not recruit, a range of talents and personalities that did not resonate with her style. The discordant clash of rhythms and abilities resulted in an 11-47 record and just four Big Ten victories. Five players have left the team under Combs.

But with senior A.J. Glasauer as the only player left over from the days before Combs, Combs is finally free to play her own game and start composing the melody she has envisioned for the Wildcats.

“Expectations are very high – we have to put wins in the column,” Combs said. “This is my third year with this group, and they know what it takes to win. Now we need to put it all together come game time.”

Combs inherited a program in shambles after she left Colgate to coach the Cats. NU had just four Big Ten wins in the last four years. The Cats had not had a winning season since 1997, going 53-145 in eight seasons.

With different coaching techniques, practice routines and styles of play to learn, Combs said the first year was a learning period for everyone.

Combs led NU to a 5-25 record in her first season, finishing 10th in the Big Ten with a 2-14 conference record. The Cats went 6-22 last year, going 2-14 in the conference to finish 10th in the Big Ten.

“The first year … everyone is trying to figure each other out,” Combs said. “It’s a huge adjustment for the players to go through a coaching change. It’s a tribute to them that they were able to go through that.”

But now that almost everyone on the team has played exclusively under Combs, their expectations are rising, and the Cats are hoping to make some noise nationally by landing their first spot in the NCAA Tournament since 1997.

Part of those great expectations come from improved relationships between coaches and players.