February 14, 2011

Confrey leans on experience to lead CUA on and off the court

Kerri Confrey has continually been asked to adjust throughout her college career.  From being thrust into a starting position as a freshman, to dealing with a coaching change as a sophomore, to battling through the adversity of injury last year, the native of New York has learned the value of making the most of any situation.  Now a senior, Confrey has used those experiences to become the leader of this year's team.  

Confrey was recruited out of Pearl River High School by former CUA Head Coach Margaret Carey to come be a part of the Cardinals program.  Confrey had several offers to go to Division II schools, but the opportunities that Catholic presented were too many to pass on.

"I was attracted to the city," Confrey says, "and the Division III aspect was very appealing to me."

Like most college athletes, Confrey figured she would go through a growing period early on while serving in a back-up role, with hopes of her playing time increasing significantly down the road.  All that changed however, during the early part of Confrey's first season in the red and black.

"The girl who was playing ahead of me tore her ACL and that forced me right into action.  I got a lot of playing time as a freshman, not that I'm complaining, but it definitely took some time to adjust to the college game." 

Confrey did quite well during that first season for the Cardinals, highlighted by a 14-point performance vs. Randolph-Macon and a game of 11 assists vs. conference rival Goucher.

With a solid first year under her belt, Confrey looked forward to taking the next step during her sophomore year.

Once again though, Confrey was dealt the unexpected, as Carey left CUA and Matt Donohue took the reigns of the program.  "It was a confusing time (during the coaching change)," Confrey explains.  "But I liked Coach Donohue right from the start; we hit it off immediately."

"In the beginning, Kerri and I were feeling one another out, trying to see what the other person is all about," Donohue explains.  "It had to have been tough on her at first because I came in and installed a totally different system than what she had run her freshman year.  But Kerri has always done anything I've asked of her and has really grown during our time together."

With Donohue now leading the program, Confrey again had a strong season, notching a career-high 19 points vs. Neumann and tying the school record for assists with 11 on two different occasions.  CUA won more games than it had the previous year, and looked poised for a big year in 2009-10.  But sometimes, things don't work out according to plan.

During a preseason practice last year, Confrey suffered an injury to her knee.  At first it was not thought to be all that serious and so Kerri tried to fight through it, even appearing in the Cardinals exhibition game vs. Division I power Maryland in November of 2009.  But something wasn't right and Confrey knew it. 

After going back to the doctor, Confrey eventually was dealt the news that no athlete wants to here: your season is over.  She had torn her ACL and faced a grueling rehabilitation process that would span nearly an entire year. 

After an admittedly slow beginning on her road to recovery, Confrey was paired with a trainer who used to work for the New York Knicks.  It was exactly what she needed.  "I needed to be pushed and he pushed me, that's for sure," she explains.  "He really got me on the right track."

Following a series of discussions with Donohue, Confrey decided to stay in Washington during the summer of 2010 to keep her rehab process on schedule.  It was a change from what Confrey's normal summer schedule looked like.

"For the past few summers Kerri had returned to New York to wait tables for 12 hours a day in order to save money to help support herself," Donohue says.  "But I felt that she needed to be here as much as possible in order to take advantage of our facilities and have access to her doctors and her trainers whenever she needed them."

While the summer can traditionally feature plenty of downtime, Confrey's was just the opposite.  In addition to her daily rehab sessions, Confrey was an intern for the Washington Wizards and Mystics in their corporate development department.  It was an experience she won't soon forget.  "I really enjoyed it and am thinking of possibly going back once I graduate (from CUA)."

"Kerri would come to campus ever day early in the morning and workout and then she would head to her internship," Donohue says.  "Her day wasn't over though because at night she found a job waiting tables.  So she was putting in very long days, sometimes not getting to sleep until 3 in the morning.  It just goes to show what type of person she is.  A lot of kids would have probably walked away from what she went through because it was so difficult." 

Confrey's dedication and perseverance have paid off in a big way on the court.  She currently leads the Landmark Conference and ranks in the top-15 nationally in assists.  She has started all 24 games for the Cardinals, while heping to lead them to their most wins during her time in the nation's capital and the program's first-ever Landmark Conference Tournament bid. 

"I thought the transition to get back to where I was would take longer," Confrey admits.  "But it's great to know all the hard work I put in has made a difference."

She goes onto say, "The team this year is different than in years past.  There is a different feel and aspect to it."

Haley Jones is the lone CUA coach that has been on the Cardinals staff for all four years of Confrey's career.  "I've told Kerri many times that it's been fun to watch her grow up and see how much she has changed through the years," Jones says. 

She continues, "Although we are not many years apart, it's similar to the feeling of a proud mother.  I'm very proud of the person she has become and the way she evolved into such a great captain this year.  Even when she was out with her injury, Kerri handled it with grace and poise and led our team from the sidelines.  She has such a presence on and off the court and I know she will be missed when she moves on."

For the past two years Confrey has been voted a captain of the Cardinals.  Both times she received a vote from every player on the team, except one – herself.  "Kerri is extremely humble," Donohue says.  "People see her out on the court and see how fiery she is, how demonstrative she can be, but underneath it all she's very humble and mature."

He continues, "Kerri has shown such tremendous growth in her time here.  She is the leader of our team, on and off the court.  The girls look to her to lead and she's always looking to motivate them.  What she brings to our team goes beyond the stats.  One of the biggest reasons our program has grown is due to the relationship that I have with Kerri."

Confrey says that she's learned the value of hard work during her time at CUA and what comes from it.  "There are always going to be setbacks along the way.  But every one of those setbacks teaches you a lesson."

She adds, "I'm really going to miss playing basketball once I leave.  I enjoy the competitive nature and I've enjoyed being around all of my coaches and teammates."

Confrey will be honored on Saturday, February 19 on Senior Night when the Cardinals close out their regular season with a matchup vs. Goucher inside the DuFour Center.  Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m.

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