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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Leary, Dancause reunite at GW

A decade ago, Liz Dancause and Michaela Leary were 10-year-olds playing together on a New Hampshire Amateur Athletic Union team. Four years later they became high school teammates at Nashua Senior High School in Nashua, N.H.

Joe Smith, a top women’s basketball recruiter of Street and Smith’s Magazine, said he saw something special in both of them during their high school years and knew they would make outstanding collegiate players. But he didn’t expect the two to end up at GW together. Neither did they.

Leary, a point guard, and Dancause, a forward, played together so long they not only developed a lifelong friendship, they developed a groove to their game that helped the Purple Panthers to two consecutive state championships and two undefeated seasons.

“She’s been my point guard since I was 10 years old, through AAU and everything,” Dancause said of Leary. “We play really well together and we have a system.”

Two years ago, Dancause was still a senior back in Nashua while Leary was en route to Michigan State as a point guard for the Spartans.

One year later, Dancause arrived at GW for her rookie season and found a familiar face – Leary. The sophomore, who transferred from Michigan State to GW (her second choice coming out of high school) said having an old teammate on a team made a difference.

“Having Liz here was an added bonus,” Leary said. “Getting the chance to go to school with your best friend and play basketball with her for another four years is something not a lot of people turn down. I finally transferred here because I just really liked the school and the coaches.”

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Leary had to red shirt last season and watch from the bench, so this is the first year that the two are actually playing in games together again. And the duo looks to use their chemistry to lead their new team to glory.

“We have really good chemistry on the court,” Leary said. “We’ve always played really well together, and we’re trying to get it done here again.”

But the road has not been easy and the women have hit a few roadblocks while trying to regain their groove.

For Leary, sitting out a year from the game she loved proved difficult, especially while adjusting to a new school.

“Any time you transfer, it’s difficult,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “You’re coming in to a whole new environment and you have to sit out a year.”

Dancause had a typical rookie year, waiting for her turn to shine on a veteran squad behind forwards Elena Vishniakova and Erica Lawrence. She came on strong at the end of the season, averaging 15 minutes a game over the final eight games and setting season highs in points (10) rebounds (six) and steals (four). But her rise was halted the following season, as she developed stress fractures in preseason workouts. The USA Today and Gatorade New Hampshire Player of the Year missed two months of preseason training.

“It’s definitely been frustrating,” Dancause said. “Preseason was hard. We ran a lot so I got a stress fracture in my foot, so I was out for almost two months. Then I came back really slowly and had another stress fracture. So hopefully I’ll get back.”

Leary said it was especially hard for her teammate this fall when she would have to sit out of workouts so close to preseason.

But now she is on her way back, McKeown said, and will be seeing increased playing time. Leary, too, is now on the track to success at GW. McKeown said she had a lot of growing pains last year but now thinks she is ready to be an outstanding player.

“She has a tremendous attitude and leadership skills. She’s very feisty. I think she just has to work to improve her game a little more,” he said. “I think she’s ready now, she’s happy, her teammates love her. She’s one of the best teammates you could have.”

With their obstacles behind them, the Nashua twosome seem poised to regain the chemistry that led them to such success before high school. But right now, their game is second to the team’s overall goals.

“Right now, we’re just excited because this team is on a roll,” Leary said. “It’s a lot of fun to play on, I think we both want to take care of business this year and worry about next year when it comes.”
-Jeff Nelson contributed to this report.

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