By Devon Jeffreys
When coach Sherri Abbey-Nowatzki took the Flagler women’s basketball coaching job, she knew she had a lot of work to do to get the team back to prominence.
At 12-13, the team has already made large strides in her first year.
“It’s been a season of a lot of new things,” Nowatzki said. “If you look at where we’re at right now, I think that we’re pretty much on pace for what I expected. It’s been like a roller coaster and it’s been like that throughout from the beginning until now.”
Hampered by injuries all season and playing a grueling schedule, the Saints are happy to have a chance to set the season right with a .500 or better record.
The Saints began February on a three-game winning streak, but fell hard in a loss to Webber International in Babson Park on Feb. 13.
“We never got off the vans,” Nowatzki said.
Flagler took a 2-0 lead early in the game, but Webber went on to score the next 19 points en route to a 65-48 win. The Saints turned the ball over 31 times.
“You’re not going to beat good teams by turning the ball over 20 plus times,” Nowatzki said.
The Saints returned home for their final two home games of the season — the first against No. 1-ranked and undefeated NCAA Div. II Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles came out on a 20-2 run and soared to an 81-44 victory.
With just one home game left, the Saints did not let the loss to the Eagles affect them against Johnson and Wales and one reason was lone senior Jamie Allenbaugh.
“It’s a horrible feeling to get beat like that,” she said. “Anytime you ever get beat like that you wish you could play a game the next day. It’s great that we had a chance to do that.”
Before the game, Allenbaugh was honored as part of Senior Day.
“Towards the end of the game, one of the things I was thinking was that we just want to do it for her,” sophomore forward Elizabeth Tuzzolo said.
Allenbaugh did not disappoint in her last game at Flagler Gym, scoring 23 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in the Saints’ 55-52 victory.
“I really don’t like having the spotlight on me,” Allenbaugh said after the game. “It was great having my team behind me. I’m really going to miss everybody and basketball.”
The Saints now head to Fort Myers for the National Independent Tournament and their first round match-up with Central State of Ohio.
“They’re a good team,” Nowatzki said. “Looking at the initial scouting report, they’re a very lanky, athletic-type team. We’re obviously going to have to take care of the ball better. Right now we have to come to play for 40 minutes.”
After the tournament, the Saints have two more road games, one against Georgia Southwestern and then another trip to Fort Myers to take on the Eagles again.
For Nowatzki looking back, the season has had its trials and tribulations.
“Sometimes we do some good things and then other times we take a step backwards,” Nowatzki said. “It’s just been inconsistent throughout.”
Nowatzki, in an effort to build a program, has signed seven recruits to add to a team losing just one player next season. She also plans to bring in three more recruits before next winter.
“The only way you’re going to get better is, one, you’ve got to have talent and two, it’s got to be competitive,” she said. “The big thing that we’re looking to bring in is competition to make us better within.”
Nowatzki is stressing a commitment to women’s basketball at Flagler going forward.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” she said. “It’s a process.”
Her players are excited for what the future holds.
“It’s going to take time,” Tuzzolo said. “Next year is going to be totally different — better and different.”