Navy women's basketball senior guard Hannah Fenkse has improved in every major statistical category this season.
But she's still not satisfied.
As a student-athlete at the Naval Academy, where leadership is as much a part of the curriculum as English or math, the senior guard sees her improvement as part of the process. To her, it's just what seniors do.
"Going into my senior year, I knew that I had to step up and be a leader in whatever aspect the team needed me," said Fenske, who was named the Navy Athlete of the Week Jan. 17. "I knew that someone was going to have to fill the roles of our previous seniors, so I came into the season ready to step into their shoes, lead the team and play well."
Fenske knew that filling the shoes of three key contributors who graduated from last year's 24-10 team, which lost in the Patriot League championship game, was not going to be easy. Those three accounted for 44 percent of the team's scoring and 40 percent of its rebounds.
But she has done her part, ranking second on the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game, third in rebounding (4.3) and first in assists (3.9). Those numbers are up from last year's 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest.
Her opponents are taking notice.
"Hannah has really developed into a complete player," Loyola head coach Joe Logan said. "She can score the ball but also is extremely unselfish at times and willing to make the extra pass. As you get ready to go down the stretch in the Patriot League, she is doing all the things you would expect a senior to do and appears to be really enjoying the journey with her teammates."
Thanks in part to Fenske's emergence, the Midshipmen have sprinted to their best start in nearly 25 years, opening the campaign with nine straight wins. That also was tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in program history.
Navy ripped through its nonconference schedule with a 10-1 record before going 1-2 to open Patriot League play. Since then, the Midshipmen have rebounded to win four straight league contests and are in second place at 15-3 overall and 5-2 in the conference.
"We always knew we were capable of another good season," Fenske said. "But going into the year we really didn't know exactly what to expect with the three key players having graduated. We knew we had the ability to be good, but it was going to take a lot of hard work, preparation and consistency for us to be able to have the type of season we are having."
It doesn't hurt that Navy has one of the top guard duos in the Patriot League. Fenske combines with classmate Taylor Dunham, the team's leading scorer, to average 28.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game. They are the second-highest scoring duo in the league.
"I love playing with Taylor," Fenske said. "Being able to play with each other the past three years, I think we really play off of each other well. We know exactly where each other likes to shoot and are always looking for each other in those spots. We're really interchangeable. We both play basically the same position, and in the end we both don't care who is scoring more. We just want the team to succeed and will do whatever we can to help the team."
Fenske, who missed her sophomore season with a torn ACL, said having the entire offseason to work on basketball fundamentals and improve her overall game instead of worrying about rehabbing has definitely helped her on-court performance. She was not nervous when stepping on the court for the first time as a junior after sitting out her entire sophomore year. But she does credit her time on the sideline for helping her gain a new perspective on the game and develop new leadership skills.
"It was very difficult to sit out, but I took it as an opportunity to improve as a player and a leader and tried to do everything that I could to help the team in any way that I could," Fenske said. "I tried to let my teammates know what I was seeing, and that outside perspective has made me a better player. It was a different type of leadership for me -- being more of a sideline coach than an on-court leader, but in the end it made me a better player and leader."
Fenske will continue to lead after she graduates in May, when she will receive her commission as an ensign in the Navy. An operations research major, Fenske received nuclear submarines as her service assignment Nov. 16. Following an additional 12 months of schooling after graduation, she will find out where she will be assigned.
No matter where she ends up, Fenske knows her time at the Naval Academy has prepared her well.
"I've been fortunate to get all different types of leadership opportunities and to get to witness so many different leaders in my four years here both through basketball and within the Academy," she said. "I've been able to watch our captains and see how they have led and been able to see so many other people lead here every day. It's helped me tremendously and given me a sense of the leader I will be when I head out to fleet."
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics