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Flames Feature: Changing of the Guard
Almost from the moment she stepped onto the Liberty University campus to suit up for the Lady Flames, Allyson Fasnacht's career has been evolving, chock full of hurdles to leap, changes to navigate and trials to overcome. The junior point guard arrived at Liberty just as the women's basketball program was preparing for a huge leap forward, as head coach Carey Green led the Lady Flames to their first-ever Sweet 16 appearance during her freshman campaign.
And from that very first season, Fasnacht's role with the team has been an ever changing one, with plenty of alterations made along the way. Fasnacht arrived for her freshman season knowing she had a lot to learn.
"Coming in, we had Daina (Staugaitiene) at the point, and so just tried to learn as much as I could from her, as well as the rest of the leaders we had," said Fashnacht. "But it was pretty soon thereafter that I was sort of thrown into things during conference play."
Indeed, when former assistant coach Chris Carroll informed Fasnacht she would make her first start in that season's conference opener against Coastal Carolina, Fasnacht found her role as a Lady Flame changing drastically for the first time. It would be the first of many times, the Salem, Va., native would come to find change facing her.
"That first change was good for me, but my role wasn't that visible," she recalled. "My job was to do the small things -- play good defense and distribute the ball to Kristal (Tharp), Katie (Feenstra) and our other scorers."
Not too long thereafter, Fasnacht would find herself being the scorer. As Liberty entered NCAA Tournament play after another Big South Championship, the Lady Flames found points difficult to come by in their normal way of scoring them. So, it was Fasnacht who stepped up in the NCAA Tournament first round against fourth-seeded Penn State, notching a then career-high 18 points.
"We noticed early on they weren't expecting me to score, and they really focused their attention on our usual scorers. I hit my first shot that night, and that gave me a lot of confidence to do what I needed the rest of the night for my teammates," remembered Fasnacht fondly.
That confidence would be tested the next season. As Liberty came off of that magical Cinderella run through the NCAA Tournament, the squad entered a transitional period with six incoming freshmen and no seniors. Fasnacht's role also changed again. She found herself trading starts with fellow point guard Michelle Parker.
"Even though I was a sophomore, the role of leadership was sort of thrust upon me because we had no seniors, and I had played quite a bit my first year," stated Fasnacht.
Certainly the direction of the coaches, Fasnacht and other team leaders was needed when top scorer and rebounder Megan Frazee went down with a season-ending ACL tear early on in conference play. Every member of the team, Fasnacht included, found their roles changing.
"We really looked at it hard as a team and thought about the 18 points and 10 rebounds per game we lost with Megan's injury," Fasnacht explained. "But the coaches explained to us that we didn't need to find one person to get all of that production back. If we each picked up a few more points and rebounds, we could share the extra load."
Fasnacht's production as an instantly needed scoring threat certainly took hold. She upped her scoring average from just 3.9 points per game her freshman season to 7.4 during her sophomore year. Before Megan Frazee's injury, Fasnacht had been averaging 4.8 points per game, but increased her average to 9.5 points per game for the remainder of the season.
Fasnacht topped her NCAA Tournament performance of the previous year with a career-high 19 points against UNC Asheville in February, and also hit the game-winning shot against High Point in the Big South Championship title game to earn the program its 10th-consecutive conference title. For her efforts, Fasnacht was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. She finished the season as a member of the Big South all-conference first team.
Fasnacht's improvements were again recognized this past fall, when she was named to the 2006 Big South preseason all-conference team. But injuries would soon present setbacks to the junior's preparation for the 2006-07 season, as a severe ankle sprain sidelined her in just the second preseason workout.
"That injury bothered me quite a bit during the preseason," said Fasnacht. "Not being able to work out with my teammates for most of the preseason, and missing all of the shooting and ball handling workouts with Coach (Olaf) Lange definitely set me back a little bit. I spent a lot of time in the pool instead, and in other ways rehabbing my ankle. But I would've much rather been out with my teammates practicing and getting ready for the season with them."
And the role Fasnacht played, even after returning to 100 percent health, changed.
"Instead of jumping right into things, I really had to play catch-up," the guard noted. "It was really frustrating at times trying to get back to where my teammates were for this season."
The recovery back to the level of her teammates was made all the more difficult when Fasnacht sustained another injury, this one a minor muscular injury in her leg as the Lady Flames were preparing for a trip to Cancun, Mexico, for the Caribbean Classic.
Consequently, the Lady Flames have been rotating both Parker, a senior, and Fasnacht at the point guard spot. Fasnacht explained that the change of roles is now nothing new to her, and she understands the reason for it.
"I know I have not been playing my best basketball by far this year, and Michelle has been playing really well. She's scoring, and she's running the team well," she said. "My role has never been about how many minutes I play or how many points I score. Basketball is such a game of ups and downs, and if the coaches decide I need to do less of those things, then I will."
Now Fasnacht is completely healthy, and starting to see her minutes increase. But she knows that through this recent role change, as well as the previous ones, her coaches have been there for her to help.
"The coaches have always let me know that I should never feel the need to do everything myself," Fasnacht explained. "We truly are a team where everyone plays a vital role in our success. And, if that role changes for myself, I am willing. I will always be willing to do what it takes for this team to be successful."
By Josh Keys
Athletic Media Relations Student Assistant