Jan. 15, 2014
Senior Audrey Pratt will kick off her final collegiate season when the Wolverines open 2014 play at Saturday's annual Michigan Kick-Off at Canham Natatorium (Jan. 10). Pratt has ranked among U-M's scoring leaders in each of her previous three seasons and comes into the New Year with 69 career goals, 68 assists and 63 steals. One of just three seniors on the Wolverine roster, Pratt will look to lead the young U-M squad back to the NCAA Tournament.
Just days away from the official opener, she took some time to discuss her own readiness for the season, the leadership from the upperclassmen and the benefits of starting the year at home.
Q: Are you ready to get this season started? Are you excited for this weekend?
A: Yes. I am so excited for the weekend. First of all, we haven't played anyone else besides ourselves in practice since middle of October when we scrimmaged Indiana. It's also my senior season, so I feel personally like there's a lot riding on it. But I'm ready to get started and get to work.
Q: What's the dynamic of the team? The upperclassmen are vastly outnumbered. But it's seems very positive and focused.
A: It's very positive. It was a little weird at first, because I don't think the current sophomore class realized how much we were asking of them -- and that's completely understandable. But they've done a very, very good job in adapting to that, and they're stepping up tremendously. We only have five upperclassmen -- three seniors and two juniors -- but we have great young talent on the team among the freshmen and sophomores. They're going to play a big part, and they're accepting it and adapting to it very well.
Q: Do you think the upperclassmen have done a good job with setting the tone and providing leadership?
A: I think so. Hathaway [Moore] was a captain last year, so she already had a lot of good experience with that. I think Kelsey [Nolan] and I have stepped into our role and become more vocal, whereas in the past we were more physical leaders in the pool. Beth [Williams] is our rah-rah captain, and she gets us going everywhere -- in the weight room, in the pool. I think we've been pretty good at vocalizing what we need of everyone, both individually and as a group.
Q: Based on your experience, how long does it take for a team to click in the water -- with different player combinations and strategies? Does it vary?
A: It definitely varies. Some of it depends on where players are from. I'd say about 80 percent of our team is from California, where teams are coached quite similarly. So, bringing a lot of Californians together, I think they might combine a little easier. For our team, since we have so many young players this particular year, I've been really focused on clicking earlier because we're going to need it. I would definitely love to see that happen this weekend. But it does take a little time, and you can't just force it.
Q: Do you like starting the season at home? Does it simplify things a little bit?
A: I really do. You can get a couple games under your belt to get the nerves out. You don't have to travel, you can sleep in your own beds, you see familiar faces in the stands. Our families all come out and watch. It's a more comfortable setting to get those nerves out.
Q: But at the same time, are you excited to get out to California in a couple weeks?
A: I'm very excited to go to California and get some Vitamin D and a little tan.