Golden Eagle: Monfre settles in as top reserve

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After a less than impressive regular season, failing to post a winning streak over two games, the Marquette women's basketball team missed the NCAA Tournament last season.

They soon after accepted an invitation to the WNIT and were looking for an answer to their season-long problem of inconsistency

The team had to look no further than junior guard Erin Monfre, who, after a season filled with turmoil, provided the Golden Eagles with that "spark" they had been looking for all year.

After losing her mother mid-season to breast cancer, basketball took a back seat. But in a way, basketball helped her get through one of the most difficult times of her life.

The team was "a whole part of that journey with my mom's illness," Monfre said. "This is like my second family. I surrounded myself with them and they're the ones who got me through it."

After all she had been through, it was only fitting for her to play a pivotal role in the team's five-game title run in the WNIT. Monfre scored 15 points on five 3-pointers in the WNIT championship game against Michigan State, which the Golden Eagles won 81-66.

"When we started the run, we were another team as far as team chemistry on and off the court," Monfre said. "Practices and enthusiasm, all that type of stuff was just different, and you could sense it.

"As a player I just played more relaxed, I had fun out there, showed emotion, and we each fed off of each other."

It was a sweet ending to a bittersweet season for the Golden Eagles and one they know they can improve on.

Insert Monfre's role as the inspiration for this year's team, and you have a recipe for success.

Coach Terri Mitchell was by no means upset with a WNIT championship, but knows that this year's team, with Monfre's help, is capable of making the NCAA Tournament.

"I think Erin has come to a place of being whatever we need her to be at that particular time," Mitchell said. Looking at the upcoming season "our team has grown, and we have a lot of different weapons."

Monfre said her role is to boost the team with her intensity.

"I think sometimes that's one of my main goals and focuses as a senior this year," Monfre said. "At practice, if it gets quiet, I want to be that first one to step up, start clapping, get the team excited, and that's going to have to carry over to games too."

Marissa Thrower, one of two other seniors on this year's squad, stressed the importance of Monfre to the team and how different it would be without her.

"Erin has the biggest heart on the team," Thrower said. "She is one of the emotional leaders and leads by example. I've never seen anybody work so hard. She just has so much passion."

Coming out of high school Monfre was feared for her ability to knock down outside shots. Three years have passed, and although she can still bury it from deep — as shown in the game against Michigan State — Mitchell believes Monfre has taken on a different role for the Golden Eagles as of late.

"Erin really gets our zone defense and has been an excellent defender on the ball, so when those needs arrive, she steps up," Mitchell said. "Taking the focus off 3-point shooting has actually made her a better 3-point shooter."

Monfre proved that defense really does win championships.

"When I put my focus on defense, offense happens," she said. "It's as much fun to stop somebody as it is to score."

With a new season comes a new role, and Monfre is prepared to handle all tasks ahead.

"This year it's all about leading by example, emotion and just using my experience to benefit the team," she said.