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Cara Consuegra is poised to lead the Charlotte women’s basketball program for her sixth season in 2016-17 after earning a four postseason appearances among her first five years, including a berth in the 2013 WNIT Sweet 16.
She has positioned the 49ers among the elite programs in Conference USA, earning a coveted top-four seed and double-bye at last year’s league tournament. The Niners managed that feat despite a depleted roster due to a variety of player injuries and the accomplishments helped earn her a spot among the inaugural Conference USA Coaches Circle.
She has risen the program’s all-time wins list quickly, entering this year in third place with her career 91-64 (.587) ledger. She needs only two more victories to tie current director of athletics Judy (Wilkins) Rose for second place and is set to become just the second head coach in school history to reach the century plateau.
Consuegra, who is under contract to remain with the program at least through 2018-19, put the team through the rigors of another challenging non-conference slate last season, a hallmark for her squad each year. Eleven opponents reached postseason play, including four in the NCAA Tournament, and Charlotte picking up six victories during the contests.
As a whole, the Niners led Conference USA in scoring (74.7 ppg) and field goal percentage (.455) in one of the best offensive campaigns in school history. The 49ers were one of a select number of programs to place among the Top 25 across the country in both categories.
Along the way, the 49ers rolled to their fourth double-digit Halton Arena win campaign in her five years, amassing a 12-3 (.800) mark. Charlotte put together an impressive 8-1 (.889) record against conference opponents inside its own building, starting with an Education Day victory over Southern Miss in front of 5,437 – one of the largest crowds in program history and third most during the annual promotion for local school children.
She masterfully mixed a solid core of veterans, including seniors Alexis Alexander and Kira Gordon who were members of her first recruiting class, with a set of freshmen who made an immediate impact on the program. Alexander blossomed into an All-Conference USA Second Team choice in her final campaign, finishing the year as one of just three players in the league to place in the Top 10 for scoring and rebounding. Gordon became the 21st member of the school’s 1,000-point club and capped her career as one of the most consistent performers on both ends of the floor.
Junior Lefty Webster’s game continued to grow, as she joined Alexander on the All-C-USA Second Team and added her name to the 1,000-point company. She hit the mark one game after Gordon and became only the 10th to join the elite group in three seasons or less. Classmate Ciara Gregory was one of the best nationally at the free throw line and from behind the 3-point arc all season, giving the Niners a variety of offensive options.
Consuegra’s recruiting efforts came to fruition this past year, as Grace Hunter and Laia Raventós were each tabbed to the All-Conference USA Freshman Team, the most representatives for any school in the league. Hunter came alive during the conference campaign, racking up a program-record five C-USA Freshman of the Week honors with highlight games night after night.
Speaking of highlights, Raventós, who is the first international signee during Consuegra’s tenure, sparkled during her inaugural collegiate campaign. She finished an assist shy of matching the school’s rookie record and her ball-handling skills dazzled fans, punctuated by a behind-the-back, no-look pass against North Carolina State in December 2015 that earned her a spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day and garnered consideration in the year-end State Farm Assist of the Year competition.
In 2014-15, the Niners faced another daunting schedule, as they were the last team to face the final two unbeatens, Princeton and top-ranked South Carolina. She navigated her squad through the difficult non-conference slate, which included four NCAA Tournament participants and two WNIT foes. In addition, five of the first seven games were away from the comforts of Halton Arena, including a Thanksgiving-week international trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico, to compete in the Triple Crown Cancun Challenge Mayan Tournament.
In Conference USA action, Charlotte played its best down the stretch. The 49ers put together a pair of three-game win streaks and topped Southern Miss on the road in a game during which they trailed by as much as 14 before mounting the comeback. Three players, Webster, Hillary Sigmon and Gordon, each surpassed the 20-point plateau; the first time since 1981 a trio of Niners accomplished the feat, while Ayanna Holmes tallied her only career double-double without scoring, grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out 10 assists.
At the end of the season, Webster was rewarded with an All-Conference USA Second Team honor. Sigmon, who has played professionally in Germany, closed her career as another member of the school’s 1,000-point club and became the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made (203) and attempted (567). Holmes also played her final collegiate campaign as the full-time point guard for the first time and responded by handing out 153 assists, tying for fourth on the school’s single-season list.
Charlotte made four appearances on national TV, starting with becoming the first 49ers athletic team to be showcased on the SEC Network when it squared off at No. 1/2 South Carolina Dec. 4. The Niners were also featured in a matchup against then-league leader Middle Tennessee Jan. 24 on the Fox Sports Networks, while the American Sports Network carried both of Charlotte’s games at the Conference USA Championships. In those two league tournament contests, the Niners earned a victory over Marshall before nearly dethroning regular-season champion WKU in the next round.
In 2013-14, the team’s lone senior, Ny Hammonds, capped one of the best careers by any 49ers point guard in recent memory. Hammonds not only became the school’s career assists leader with 496, but she tallied back-to-back triple-doubles in her final two home contests. The consecutive triple-doubles puts her in an elite group of only six players in NCAA history to accomplish the feat.
Hammonds, an All-Conference USA Second Team selection, was joined on the postseason all-league squads by Webster, who garnered all-rookie team honors. Hammonds has gone on to continue her career, playing professionally in Lithuania and Russia.
Off the court, the Niners excelled just as much. Charlotte posted a program-record 3.31 grade-point average during the Spring 2014 term with 11 of the 13 players averaging at least a 3.0.
In 2012-13, the 49ers put together a stellar campaign to conclude their stay in the Atlantic 10. Charlotte finished with a 26-6 mark, the second best in school history and in the state, while the 13-1 conference record helped assure the program of its 11th-straight postseason berth. Only 12 programs nationally can claim as long of a run of success as the Niners.
Charlotte reached the WNIT Sweet 16 for the second time in the three seasons, playing all three postseason contests in the friendly confines of Halton Arena. The 49ers continue to put up stellar numbers on their home floor, setting a single-season school record with 14 victories in 2012-13 while extending the streak of double-digit wins in the on-campus facility that opened in 1996.
Consuegra coached the 2013 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Jennifer Hailey, along with two other all-conference selections in Amanda Dowe and Hammonds. Hailey became just the second player in school history to receive the highest honor from a league. Consuegra, a former collegiate point guard herself, helped tutor Hammonds to a breakout campaign in which she finished among the nation’s Top 10 in assists per game and set single-season program standards for assists (209) and minutes played (1101).
Both Hailey and Dowe continued their playing careers, turning professionally and heading overseas to compete in Italy and Spain, respectively. Dowe has extended her career by playing in Brazil.
The Niners won a school record 13-in-a-row during the tough conference season and earned ESPN.com National Team of the Week honors in February. Charlotte also received votes in the March 4 Associated Press poll, the first national recognition for the program since 2002-03.
In June 2013, she completed The Center for Coaching Excellence, a two-and-a-half day elite leadership program on the Columbia campus in New York. A total of 35 head coaches attended the program which was by invitation only and sponsored by the WBCA.
Consuegra began her coaching career in 2011-12 by guiding the Niners back to the postseason and another WNIT appearance with a 16-14 mark. She was one of three finalists for the Maggie Dixon Award, the WBCA’s annual award given year-end to the nation’s top rookie head coach.
Two 49ers garnered All-A-10 plaudits, including Epiphany Woodson being named the conference’s sixth player of the year. Hillary Sigmon also earned a spot on the all-rookie team.
Charlotte also played in front of a school record attendance for a stand-alone women’s game with 6,799 witnessing the 77-66 triumph over La Salle Jan. 18, 2012. It shattered the previous mark by over 2,000 and helped the 49ers average 1,637 fans for the entire season.
Before coming to Charlotte, she spent seven years (2004-05 through 2010-11) as an assistant coach at Marquette in the Big East. She helped guide the Golden Eagles to postseason berths each season, including a pair of NCAA Tournament bids, and 145 overall victories.
Marquette captured the 2008 WNIT title and also played in the 2006 WNIT final. The Golden Eagles had four 20-win seasons during her stay in Milwaukee.
One of her main responsibilities was overseeing the development of the program’s backcourt. She worked closely with 2011 WNBA draft pick and All-Big East First Team selection Angel Robinson, 2011 All-Big East Second Team pick Tatiyiana McMorris, 2009 All-American and two-time All-Big East First Team choice Krystal Ellis, a Nancy Lieberman Award finalist.
She served as Marquette’s recruiting coordinator, helping to bring in top-tier classes consistently which included several nationally-ranked players.
Her first job out of college was as Penn State’s director of operations for three seasons, from 2001-02 through 2003-04. The Nittany Lions advanced to the 2004 NCAA Elite Eight and the 2002 and 2003 NCAA Sweet 16 during her tenure with the Big 10 program.
Consuegra completed a stellar four-year career at Iowa with honorable mention Kodak and Associated Press All-American honors her senior season. She was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2001 Big Ten Tournament, helping the Hawkeyes secure an upset over top-seed Purdue in the championship, and was an all-conference first team member following her final campaign.
Consuegra was an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Award recipient and garnered three All-Big Ten Academic accolades in addition to her trio of all-league honors on the court.
She was the longtime career assists record holder at the school (576). When she concluded her career, which included a pair of NCAA Second Round appearances, she was one of only 13 players in Big Ten history to net 1,000 career points and hand out 500 career assists. She finished her time in Iowa City with 1,147 points.
Following her standout career, she spent one season playing in the WNBA with the Utah Starzz in 2001.
Consuegra, a Mt. Airy, Maryland, native, graduated from Iowa with honors. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sports, health and leisure studies. She then completed her master’s degree in higher education from Penn State in 2004.
She married JP Josetti in June 2009 and the couple welcomed its first child, Jayden, born Aug. 6, 2013. A second son, Jace, was born June 30, 2015.