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An Old Year's Resolution
Just a few short weeks ago, the ball dropped in New York City's Times Square, bringing in 2008 and, along with it, countless new year's resolutions. For junior forward Moriah Frazee and the Liberty women's basketball team, though, their resolutions went into effect on March 9, 2007, after Radford ended the Lady Flames' 2006-07 season with a buzzer-beater in the Big South Championship semifinals.
The setback halted a streak of 10-consecutive Big South titles and 10-straight NCAA Tournament appearances and ensured Coach Carey Green he would not have to work hard to motivate his nine returnees during the offseason. Frazee and her teammates quickly committed themselves to recapturing the Big South crown, taking on the motto, "Earn it."
"We just want to go out this year and regain our edge," remarked Frazee. "We need to come out hard in every game and not back down. We want to earn back some of the respect we lost last year."
Although the Lady Flames' 2007-08 conference slate does not open until Jan. 19, when Liberty travels to Charleston Southern, Frazee and her teammates have gotten off to an encouraging start against some talented non-conference foes. Within the first month of the season, Liberty defeated a pair of 2007 NCAA Tournament participants, James Madison and Xavier. The latter victory was especially satisfying for Frazee, who went to high school in Xenia, Ohio, located approximately an hour north of Xavier's Cincinnati, Ohio, campus.
"It was a lot of fun to see so many of our family and friends come out and support us at Xavier," stated Frazee. "It reminded me of my senior year of high school, with all of the support we received. Then, it was exciting that we were able to play well and get our season off to a good start."
The Lady Flames won all three of their games at the National City Xavier Invitational (Nov. 23-25), including a come-from-behind triumph over the host Musketeers in the championship tilt. Frazee was voted to the all-tournament team after averaging 12.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for the tournament and posting her first career double-double against Houston (16 points, 11 rebounds). It proved to be only a sign of things to come for Frazee, who is in the midst of a breakthrough season.
Beginning with the second half of the Xavier game, the 6-3 junior made 23 of her next 26 field goals, shooting at an .885 clip. The run spanned the Lady Flames' subsequent victories over Virginia Union, James Madison and Binghamton and culminated with Frazee's first career Big South Player of the Week recognition on Dec. 10. Field goal efficiency is something the frontcourt player had focused on during the offseason.
"Last season, I didn't finish well around the basket," recalled Frazee. "So, I've focused on doing a better job of finishing this year. Last year, I would anticipate fouls too often. This time around, I'm trying to push through people's arms when I go up to shoot. Coach [Dave] Williams [the team's strength and conditioning coach] helped me get stronger during the offseason and I have more confidence this year."
For Green and the Lady Flames, Frazee's production has come at just the right time. Frontcourt stalwarts Jamie Feagin and Karolina Piotrkiewicz graduated from last season's squad. Then, 6-5 senior Egle Smigelskaite was injured shortly before the season's opening tip-off. As a result, greater responsibility has fallen upon the shoulders of Frazee, the most prototypical post player of the Lady Flames' junior triplets. And she has answered the call.
Frazee has provided Liberty with a viable second scoring and rebounding option behind sister Megan, something the 2006-07 Lady Flames lacked. For the nursing major, consistency has been key. Frazee scored in double figures during 10 of Liberty's first 12 contests this season and collected five or more rebounds eight times during the same span.
Her efforts on the boards have additionally helped Liberty continue its tradition of being a strong rebounding team. The Lady Flames have ranked as one of the nation's top 25 rebounding squads throughout the season, and Liberty became the first opposing team to pull down more boards than No. 4 North Carolina this year.
Olaf Lange, a former Liberty assistant coach who now works on the staff of the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars, would not be surprised to learn of Frazee's success during her junior season.
"Coach Lange always told me I was capable of scoring 11 or 12 points per game," noted Frazee. "It takes some of the pressure off when you have more players get involved offensively. So, I just go out every night and play my best for the team."
In addition to doing her best on the hardwood, Frazee is one of a number of Lady Flames who excels in the classroom. She and sister Molly both maintain grade-point-averages over 3.7 despite being enrolled in one of the most difficult programs on campus, nursing.
"I really enjoy the nursing program," Frazee explained. "I've become really close to my classmates, like I am to my teammates on the basketball team. I also enjoy talking to patients and their families in the hospital and being able to help them."
Due in part to her demanding basketball schedule, Moriah and Molly Frazee will take the most difficult and time-consuming junior-level nursing class, Med-Surge, next year. Moriah has also held off on locking herself into a future occupational path, but she does have a few ideas about what she would like to do, post-graduation.
"I should be nursing somewhere," noted Frazee. "I think I'd also like to work at least part-time on the mission field. I've been on one missions trip, to an Indian reservation in Arizona, and it was a very good experience."
Frazee asserts she is taking things one year at a time when it comes to determining her future plans, just as she and her teammates will need to take things one game at a time versus their conference foes.
Liberty has played well to open the 2007-08 campaign, but so has Radford, the preseason pick to win the Big South title. Also, the Lady Flames will need to unseat defending conference champion UNC Asheville on its home court, the Justice Center, during the 2008 Big South Women's Basketball Championship. Still, Frazee remains confident in her team's chances.
"We just need to play like we're capable of playing," stated the early-season Big South field goal percentage leader. "We have a lot of ability and just need to go out and do our best. We need to execute on offense, and rebounding is a big thing. I think we'll be fine."
By the time you read this article, most people's new year's resolutions will already be a distant memory. However, Moriah Frazee and the Liberty Lady Flames have followed through with their common objective for over 10 months already, and they intend to continue until they have reclaimed the Big South Championship trophy on March 16.
Paul Carmany is an assistant athletics media relations director for Liberty University who covers women's basketball.