- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Washington Mystics did a lot of things right on the way to the first 2-0 start in franchise history.

By defending well and scoring in transition - exactly the way first-year coach Julie Plank wants them to play - the Mystics controlled the tempo of both games.

And by grabbing the two early wins, they reinforced the confidence that began brewing in training camp.

“It feels good to start off strong,” forward Monique Currie said. “It’s only two games, but for us, that’s a big deal. We’re going to continue to work hard because that’s what has gotten us to this point.”

Washington is reaping the benefits of the long hours spent in the gym this preseason. The Mystics are in better shape, coming up with a majority of loose balls and staying strong down the stretch.

And they have quickly adopted Plank’s style. The Mystics forced 39 turnovers over the weekend, which allowed them to thrive in the open court.

“When you get fast-break points, that gives you a lot of energy, keeps your adrenaline going,” center Chasity Melvin said. “The crowd is into it, and if you’re on somebody’s homecourt, you can take them out of the game quick.”

Plank has taken advantage of her deep bench to maintain Washington’s fast break, substituting frequently to keep fresh bodies on the court. That has enabled the Mystics to keep the pace up for all 40 minutes, a style they enjoy.

“That running game gives everybody confidence quick,” Melvin said. “You get easy shots, then that makes shooting outside shots a lot easier, so it really helps with our confidence because that’s what we need right now starting off the season.”

The Mystics’ improved mental approach was evident in both games. They led for most of Saturday’s game and remained poised before climbing out of a 14-point first-quarter hole Sunday.

Sunday’s comeback in particular affirmed that Washington is a changed team. It’s a relieving feeling for the players who have been with the Mystics a long time and are used to much different environment.

“If we had gone down like we did [Sunday] against Atlanta last year, I don’t believe the outcome would have been the same,” Currie said. “I think we’re a lot more focused.”

The Mystics look forward to Wednesday’s trip to the Palace of Auburn Hills against Detroit, which won the league title last season.

Playing the defending champions in a hostile environment is the type of challenge they are looking for after their quick start.

“This game will really be a test for us,” Currie said. “We’re going in there with a lot of confidence, and we just know when we play our game we can compete and beat anybody in the league.”

Note - Vicky Bullett now will serve as the Mystics’ manager of basketball operations in addition to continuing to work as an assistant coach.

• Mike Fratto can be reached at mfratto@washingtontimes.com.

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