The goal for the No. 1 ranked Onondaga Community College women's basketball team was clear - improve on last year's success. To say they have done so is a bit of an understatement.
OCC finished the 2008-09 campaign with a 29-7 overall record, claimed the NJCAA Region III Division III championship for the first time in school history, and finished fifth in the NJCAA Division III national tournament.
The Lazers' most notable win of last year came when they upset Mohawk Valley Community in the regional round. The Hawks' wings were clipped when OCC upset the touted favorite.
"It was an awesome feeling being able to know we knocked them off when they were 100 percent set on going." sophomore Jenna Rossi said, "They had gone for six straight years. It was a feeling you can't describe."
Head coach Mike Wheeler agrees. "It was an omen," he said. "They took us lightly."
Yes, that's all fine -- but it's also old news. Entering the 2009-10 season, the Lazers were hungrier than before. Nothing more would wet their palate more than a national championship.
"We know what to expect now," Rossi said. "The returning players know what it is like."
Competitive tests are part of the basketball curriculum. To be the best, teams have to play the best, so it came as no surprise that OCC's annual trip to Florida was going to be a true testament to the team's capabilities.
After a 3-0 sweep down south in the Broward College Holiday Classic, a plane ride back to snow-bitten Syracuse was all it took for Wheeler to realize this year's team had something special. During that tournament, the Lazers beat Miami Dade College, 62-55, Broward College, 72-58 and University of Western Ontario in overtime, 83-79.
"Beating University of Western Ontario after back-to-back games, I thought, 'Wow,'" Wheeler said.