When Sarita Condie began her Navy women's basketball career during the 2013-14 season, she was entering a program that had made three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
During Condie's freshman year, Navy went 24-8 and won the Patriot League regular-season crown. But a loss to Holy Cross in the conference semifinals derailed the Midshipmen's quest for a fourth straight NCAA trip. Navy accepted a bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament but fell to Old Dominion in the opening round.
Three years later, Condie and her teammates are still seeking that NCAA bid. During her senior year, the 5-foot-7 guard has put the Midshipmen in position for a run at the league title and Navy's first NCAA Tournament berth since the 2012-13 season. Following a 79-44 win against visiting Lehigh Feb. 15, Navy has won 12 of its last 13 games and appears to be getting stronger as the regular season winds down.
"The chemistry that we've built this year has been different," said Condie, the Navy team captain for the last two seasons. "A lot of girls have committed to the role that they have within the team, and it's made the wins more enjoyable. It's easy to be the leader of this team."
By completing their season sweep of Lehigh, the Midshipmen improved to 19-6 overall and remained in a first-place tie with Bucknell for the league lead at 12-2. With four regular-season games remaining, the Midshipmen hold a two-game lead over third-place Army West Point, their upcoming opponent in the Army-Navy Star Game at Alumni Hall Feb. 18.
Navy will host Bucknell Feb. 25, with the winner likely clinching the top seed for the Patriot League tournament. Bucknell defeated visiting Navy, 67-64, during the Patriot League opener Dec. 30.
Condie, who contributed eight points and four rebounds in 24 minutes of action against Lehigh, is nearing the career 1,000-point mark. Entering the Army West Point game, Condie needs 11 points to become the 20th player in Navy's 40-year women's basketball history to reach that milestone.
During her final collegiate season, Condie has helped fuel a fast-paced Navy offense that is averaging 69.2 points, more than 14 points per game higher than the 2015-16 squad. Condie leads the Midshipmen in scoring (13.1-point average), 3-point field goal percentage (.462) and free-throw accuracy (.867). Condie has also contributed 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
"There are still a lot of things for me to work on," said Condie, who has scored 327 of her 989 career points during the 2016-17 campaign. "But having teammates like mine has helped me have this kind of season. I'm thankful for the confidence that they have shown in me."
During Condie's freshman season, she averaged 3.5 points and 2.3 rebounds on a veteran-dominated team. As a sophomore, she earned the program's Admiral Charles R. Larson Most Valuable Player award after averaging 8.0 points and 2.1 rebounds as a part-time starter on a 17-14 Navy team. Condie was a repeat winner of the MVP honor during her junior season, which ended with a 15-15 record. As a full-time starter, she led the team in scoring (10.7 points per game) and assists (2.2).
But those two seasons ended with losses in the Patriot League tournament. Now, Condie sees a comparison between the 2013-14 team, which started four seniors and one junior, and the current edition.
"They made the game real simple," said Condie of her freshman-year teammates. "They never talked about winning streaks or breaking records. Every game mattered. That's what this team reminds me of, and it's cool to see that parallel."
A three-sport standout at Pershing County High School, the native of Lovelock, Nev., helped her prep team win three state basketball championships and another state title in volleyball. Condie earned statewide Player of the Year honors in both sports.
When it came time to make her next move, the talented, multi-sport athlete from the landlocked state of Nevada chose a service academy located in the bayside town of Annapolis, Md.
"It was about what this place had to offer, in general," Condie said. "I'll be able to lead others in service to my country and make an impact on the world right after I graduate."
In addition to serving as Navy's team captain, Condie has added to her leadership responsibility this year. She was elected "captain of the captains" by the captains of all Navy athletic teams.
"It's a huge honor to have that trust and be a leader that they can turn to," Condie said. "It's cool to have my feet in the athletic spectrum and also to be working with the brigade leadership."
Before she begins her postgraduate career as a Surface Warfare Officer on the San Diego-based U.S.S. Rafael Peralta, Condie still has a few basketball goals ahead of her. The homestretch begins with the Midshipmen's next game against Army and a run toward an NCAA Tournament berth.
"I've never won an N-Star game, so it would be good to get one," Condie said. "As for the NCAA's, it would be a great ending to what has been a special season."