Cara Consuegra’s coaching ambitions began when she was a running, gunning, state-title chasing point guard at Linganore High in the 1990s.
It became a goal of hers to use the sport of basketball to make a difference in the lives of players. On Monday, it became even clearer than it had been that she’s succeeded.
During a season in which she became UNC Charlotte’s all-time leader in coaching wins and led the Niners to the Conference USA regular-season title, Consuegra was named the C-USA women’s basketball Coach of the Year.
Consuegra, the engine for two Linganore state-championship teams between 1995 to 1997, guided Charlotte to a 19-9 record after starting off 4-6 through the grueling non-conference part of the schedule early in the season.
The Niners garnered a school-record eight postseason honors from C-USA Monday, including Player of the Year Octavia Jett-Wilson and Defensive Player of the Year Keke McKinney.
“Being named coach of the year is special,” Consuegra texted the News-Post on Monday. “First it means I have a really great team with tremendous players, coaches and staff. It’s also a culmination of many years of hard work and sacrifice. Coaching is hard and winning is hard. When you have years like this, it is very rewarding.”
Getting her team to play at a high level on both ends of the floor, Consuegra led the Niners to a 15-3 mark in C-USA play — the most league victories in school history.
The season began for Consuegra with the record-setting 176th victory in the opener, a 63-45 win at Richmond on Nov. 9. Then, on Sunday, Consuegra — in her 11th season — guided Charlotte to a 70-49 win over Southern Miss at home that wrapped up the C-USA regular-season crown and led to a net-cutting ceremony.
Under Consuegra this season, Charlotte sits third nationwide in 3-point field goal defense (23.9 percent). In overall field goal percentage defense, the Niners rank 11th at 35.1 percent with both categories leading Conference USA. They also led the league in blocked shots (132; 4.71/game) while finishing second in defensive rebounding per game (27.18).
In league games only, the Niners led every one of those categories and were C-USA’s best scoring defense at 54.39 points per game, more than three points per game ahead of second.
Consuegra, who played in college at Iowa and later reached the WNBA, notched her first Coach of the Year honor while becoming the second all-time in program history, the other being Amanda Butler in 2005-06.
Next, Consuegra and her team play Thursday in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinals as they try to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in her tenure.
“From the time I was at Linganore I knew I wanted to be a coach,” Consuegra said Monday. “I never thought about how successful I could be, I just knew I wanted to give back to the game and impact lives. That’s what I have always been focused on. And I think it’s safe to say I have done that.”