Victoria Macaulay fills a void in the Owls’ frontcourt.
It’s night and day.
That’s what coach Tonya Cardoza called junior center Victoria Macaulay’s emergence during Atlantic Ten Conference play as a dual threat scorer and rebounder.
“Her whole game has changed and I’m happy to see it, because it’s rewarding to finally see something click,” Cardoza said.
Since the A-10 season started on Jan. 7, Macaulay has averaged 10.5 points and 8.9 rebounds, which puts her in the Top 5 in those categories for the conference during that timespan. In the past two weeks, she set career highs in points (21 vs. St. Joseph’s), shots made (nine vs. Fordham) and tied her career high of 13 rebounds against Saint Louis.
Once the center of criticism in a weak frontcourt, the 6-foot-4-inch Staten Island, N.Y. native is finally living up to the promise the coaching staff saw three years ago while recruiting her from Curtis High School.
Macaulay, who received little recruiting attention from college programs, was brought in with the idea that she would quickly become a starter. But for two seasons she struggled, never averaging more than five points or five rebounds a game. Cardoza tried to give her the reigns last year, but Macaulay didn’t earn the full-time starting gig until a loss against Duke at the end of December 2011.
After starting the final 21 games last season, Macaulay started just one of the first nine games this season. She lacked focus, work ethic and most importantly, confidence.
Cardoza said Macaulay got frustrated when she didn’t see her practice translate into game success and when the coaches tried to help her it was “in one ear and out the other.”
“That was the most frustrating thing, that in practice [Macaulay] would dominate and then when it was time to play she didn’t do those same things,” Cardoza said.
“The past two years I just wasn’t as serious as I am now,” Macaulay added.
Cardoza consistently pointed out Macaulay’s inability to take over favorable matchups.
“I really feel it was my fault not producing, not helping my teammates out,” Macaulay said.
Then something clicked.
A double-double of 14 points and 10 boards against Western Michigan right before A-10 play built some confidence. Cardoza believes it happened when Macaulay finally learned to slow herself down and digest what was going on.
“You know that she could do some things but she’d try to do it too quickly and now she’s just taken a step back and slowed her game down, and now she’s blossoming,” Cardoza said.
It’s something the team needs if they want to win their first A-10 title under Cardoza. Having a dominant center opens up the court for senior guards Kristen McCarthy and Shey Peddy, the focal points of the offense.
“They don’t have to look past me,” Macaulay said. “It’s not a guard’s game anymore, that feels good for us post players. We are options now.”
“The dynamic of the team has totally changed now, because now you might have to go double-team her,” Cardoza said. “Now you can’t play us a certain way because of our guard play. So she’s just opened it up for us.”
Macaulay has always been a little different from her teammates.
“She’s a diva,” Cardoza said. “The most important thing to her is how she looks, what her hair is looking like, her outfits.”
It’s ironic considering Macaulay plays a position notorious for physical play and it was something her teammates had to adjust to at first.
“Now she’s blended in well with them, where they appreciate her humor now, they love being around her and I think she enjoys being around them more so,” Cardoza said.
The chemistry is something she’ll have to build upon the rest of the season as the rest of the team is expected to feed her the ball more as she continues to dominate the paint.
But looking past this season, it will be even more important next year when senior guard BJ Williams, along with Peddy and McCarthy are gone and the focal point will turn to Macaulay.
Cardoza was once concerned that the team would struggle next year with freshmen guards Monaye Merritt, Tyonna Williams and Rateska Brown taking over for the graduating seniors. But that’s not the case anymore.
“The thing is, what she’s shown us now, there’s no going back,” Cardoza said. “You’ve shown everybody what you can do now, you have to live up to this.”
There’s also the added dimension that fellow center, senior Joelle Connelly, will be gone as well, leaving Macaulay as the lone true center on the team. While Cardoza stresses that they don’t need a big center in the A-10, it’s clear that not having someone to take the load off Macaulay while learning under her isn’t the ideal situation.
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot, because all the pressure might be on me but I do have to produce and dominate the post,” Macaulay said. “So the pressure really is going to be on me, but I think I can handle it.”
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.