Miriam Baumann and Tessa Needham knew the Quest Kermodes weren’t always this good – but then again, they kind of didn’t.
The pair came in at a time when the program was developing. Winning was the expectation, making the playoffs was becoming the norm, and disappointing playoff results and team management was enough to change coaches.
In other words, it was becoming a respectable basketball program.
Now, following historic back-to-back championships and a slew of graduations, the two are fighting to ensure that Quest’s claim as a perennial powerhouse is more than just a fleeting memory.
“It’s tough with all the different dynamics coming in,” said Needham, who – along with Baumann and Shahed Aburegeba – are the only returning members. “It’s really tough to create a culture but you just try to do the same things you’ve learned in the past and provide guidance as we were provided.”
In the short seven-year existence of the Quest women’s basketball program, the university’s meteoric rise to the top of the sport has been paralleled by few others in league history.
Following an expectedly difficult inaugural campaign in 2008-2009, the Kermodes quickly established itself as a competitive program.
It finished one spot outside the playoffs the next couple of seasons – no small feat considering Quest only opened its doors in 2007 – before clinching its first playoff berth in 2012.
After a pair of first-round exists, the program’s major breakthrough came in 2012-2013 when the club not only registered its first playoff win, but also surprised the league by capturing its first Pacwest championship. (See video.)
The women outdid themselves next.
With a perfect 23-0 record against Pacwest opponents the following year, the Kermodes amassed what must be considered one of the finest campaigns in league history.
The unblemished mark is the only perfect record registered since 1970 when league records began being tracked, and the first time a school had repeated as Pacwest champions in more than a decade. (See video.)
“I felt like they were always humble about basketball and in practice because they didn’t always win,” Baumann said when asked about her former teammates. “They always knew what it felt like to lose, but that’s what made them successful. They worked harder because of it.”
So in the wake of the historic runs, the current Kermodes, an inexperienced, youthful and almost entirely new roster are ready to make their mark on the league.
And at the helm are Needham and Baumann, co-captains saddled with two completely opposite yet equally important challenges to ensure success.
Needham, a sporadically-used role player in the initial title runs, must produce points to alleviate the offensive burden from Baumann’s shoulders, as all teams will be squarely keying on her following the graduation of former Pacwest MVP Shayna Cameron.
Baumann is one of the most statistically impressive players in the league, but she must find her voice to guide the young Kermodes if the team is to stick together in what is sure to be a trial-and-error period to begin the year.
“I’ve had a lot of troubles being patient but I know as a leader I should be more patient,” said Baumann, a two-time league all-star. “But it’s really hard me with me and Tessa being the two only older players and trying to make everyone else focus. We’re still trying to figure it out.”
If Baumann and Needham are able to do just that – and shock the Pacwest once more – they may just write the best chapter yet in Quest basketball history.