Desherra Nwanguma hasn’t won much during her first three years at UT Arlington.As one of only four seniors on the Mavericks’ roster, Nwanguma has yet to see her team win 10 games in a season. But with the arrival of new head coach Krista Gerlich, the entire mentality of the program has taken a sharp turn for the better.“This year feels different. The energy’s different and we’re building chemistry,” Nwanguma said. “We’re a team. There’s a winner’s mindset all around.”Gerlich brings a never-say-die attitude to a program that hasn’t seen the postseason since the 2009-10 season. Gerlich, who led West Texas A&M to a 168-53 record over the last seven seasons after serving as an assistant at Texas Tech, sparked a winning mindset within College Park Center.“We’re going to be fighters,” she said. “I want to establish that they know they’re always in a ballgame. It doesn’t matter what the score is.”Gerlich ushered in an environment of discipline that preaches accountability and hard work, all in the name of getting it right. According to guard Laila Suleiman, the team’s leading scorer in last season’s 7-23 campaign, it’s exactly what they needed.“I want to be able to rely on multiple teammates to fight with me until the buzzer,” she said. “That’s one thing I’m big on.”Nwanguma said there’s no doubt she’s bringing that energy every time she touches the court this season.“There’s never going to be a game where we’ll be able to just breeze through, so why not go all out?” she said. “I don’t want to jog through a game just to play the whole game. Work hard and everybody will benefit from it.”She’ll start getting help from the freshman from Keller Fossil Ridge that everyone was talking about — 6-foot-2 forward Allyson Te’o, who’s been the “brightest spot of our newcomers,” Gerlich said.“A lot of times freshmen truly struggle with the speed and strength of the game, but she’s come in and fought hard,” and in lifting weights “she probably squats more than anyone on our team.”The mindset is even carrying over into practice. Morgan Hunt, a Colleyville Heritage product who spent the past two seasons at Colorado State but will sit out after transferring to UTA, is pushing the starting lineups in practice even without the option to play a minute this season. Gerlich hopes Hunt and Te’o begin a trend of encouraging area players to consider UTA instead of going off to a bigger school. If this winning mentality holds, that could come to fruition.
Key games for UT Arlington women
Season opener: Nov. 8 at Houston Baptist
Home opener: Nov. 14 vs. Incarnate Word
Sun Belt opener: Jan.2 vs. Arkansas St.
Final home game: March 1 vs. Western Kentucky