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The members of the Kennesaw State women’s basketball team presented coach Agnus Berenato a picture collage as a token of appreciation for the lessons they have learned this year.

KENNESAW — The Kennesaw State women’s basketball team went 11-19 and 6-8 in the Atlantic Sun last season.

Those facts mean nothing to new coach Agnus Berenato.

If you ask her about it there isn’t much she can tell you either. Berenato doesn’t know what the Owls’ record was a year ago and she hasn’t watched any film of last year’s games. As practice continues toward the season opener Nov. 11 at Vanderbilt, the new coach is concerned with only two things – turning her group of players into a single family unit, and getting that unit is shape to handle her pace of play.

“Day-by-day, practice-by-practice, we’re getting better every day,” Berenato said. “But sometimes they have no idea where I’m coming from.”

Berenato has used different team building exercises to help it come together. She has taken the team kickboxing, had them play duck-duck-goose and timed them as they ran up Kennesaw Mountain and back. The lessons learned in those exercises have started to show in some unexpected ways.

Berenato returned to the office and found a package and a card leaning against her office door. The package was a framed picture collage of all the team-building events. It showed all the fun the players had and it also had shown all the respect Berenato and her coaching staff has earned from the players in a short amount of time.

In the center of all the photos was a simple message – the word family.

The card said, “We’re so thankful for you helping us grow as players and people every day. We will get you that ring.”

The coach, not known for a loss of words, said she was speechless.

Now, those same ideas that helped form the unit are starting to show on the court.

During a recent scrimmage the starting five played the backups. The backups won handily and Berenato was not happy. Before the action started again, she made one change. She took a reserve with high energy and placed her with four starters. The first unit fed off that and drubbed the second team the rest of the way.

That energy and the player’s passion for the game proved to be a much-needed kick in the pants.

“Be passionate,” Berenato said. “Bring enthusiasm. When we first started practice (this summer) they weren’t sure about me. There weren’t any high fives. Three wasn’t anybody talking up their teammate after a good play. Now, there’s chest bumping and cheering. They are starting to buy in.”

Getting the players to buy in is Part 1, now they have to be ready for the uptempo style of basketball Berenato wants to play.

“We want to get the ball and go,” she said. “Pass, pass, score. If we don’t get a shot in 8 seconds, then set up the offense.”

Berenato said the conditioning she wants her team to have isn’t there yet. Sometimes she has to stop practice just because the team can’t maintain the pace.

“I told them, ‘You all had physicals and came back as healthy young women,’” she said. “When you feel like your heart is going to fall out of your chest, it’s not. You just have to push to get through to that next level.”

Will they be ready for opening night?

“We’re getting better every day,” Berenato said.

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