When asked what it has been like to play under the wing of first-year head coach Cameron Newbauer, the waterworks began to flow. Transfer Paulina Hersler had just finished her first and only season in a Florida Gators uniform and couldn’t hold back the tears.
“I want to thank coach, personally, for giving me…,” Hersler stopped, as the tears began to well up in her eyes. “For giving me a chance to be here for my fifth year. He believes in his players. He coaches like we can do anything.”
With six seconds remaining in the first round of the SEC Tournament, Florida knew its time was up.
It was the final time Hersler would sit behind a mic for a postgame press conference as a UF player. She was one of three (Haley Lorenzen and Dyandria Anderson) seniors to start in every contest this season. She also averaged double-figures for the first time in her career (11.8 points per game).
For Lorenzen and Anderson, the four years they signed up for when they scribbled their names on the dotted line have come and gone.
Lorenzen, the 6-foot-3 forward who came from a basketball family, hangs up her jersey in the Florida 1,000-point club. She leaves the university as the 25th player to achieve the milestone.
Anderson will look into teaching the game after being accepted into the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “So You Wanna Be a Coach” program earlier this year.
“I’m really proud of what the seniors have done this year to build the foundation of our program,” Newbauer said.
Now, the Gators — who finished 2017-18 with a record of 11-19, 3-13 in the SEC — will have to replace three starters over the summer.
But navigating the waters next season shouldn’t be tough if they maintain the mindset Newbauer instilled all season: fight.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Lorenzen said. “He’s pushed us, and myself included, to do things that you never thought you could. To his credit, he helped us believe we can accomplish anything.”
But in Newbauer’s first year, he couldn’t get Florida back above .500. And that was to be expected. UF lost its best scorer – First Team All-SEC forward Ronni Williams – to graduation and struggled with depth throughout the season.
Florida lost players to injury. Some left the team. It was a tough situation for any coach to come into.
Can he revitalize a program that has consistently struggled over the last few decades? Only time will tell.