Karen Barefoot, a nationally-known women’s basketball coach who has built successful programs at four different institutions, finished her fourth season as the 11th head coach in UNCW women’s basketball history during the 2020-21 campaign.
Barefoot, 48, has brought winning back to UNCW over the last four years, with the Seahawks posting 47 victories, including an 18-12 record in 2018-19 that secured the team’s first winning season in seven years. The Seahawks also authored a 13-1 mark inside Trask Coliseum, matching the program record for home wins in a single season.
UNCW posted seven victories during the 2020-21 season, which included a victory over the College of Charleston in the opening round of the CAA Women’s Basketball Championship. A pair of student-athletes were recognized by the CAA’s head coaches as Carol-Anne Obusek received Second-Team All-CAA notice, while Za’Nautica Downs earned the league’s Sixth Player of the Year award in addition to a place on the All-CAA Third Team.
Under Barefoot’s tutelage, the Seahawks registered 10 wins during the 2019-20 campaign, including six victories in Colonial Athletic Association regular season play. UNCW fashioned a 69-55 victory over Charleston in the opening game of the CAA Women’s Basketball Championship before the tournament was cut short due to COVID-19.
Barefoot’s squad had three student-athletes recognized with CAA postseason awards, including senior guard Lacey Suggs, who was named CAA Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Redshirt senior guard GiGi Smith, the Seahawks’ leading scorer, was a Third-Team All-CAA performer, while senior guard Ahyiona Vason earned a spot on the league’s All-Defensive Team.
UNCW earned a share of third place in the CAA regular season standings in 2018-19 after finishing with an 11-7 conference record. The Seahawks were the only team to defeat CAA regular season champion James Madison during league play, posting a 66-63 victory at Trask Coliseum on Jan. 18.
As a result of the Seahawks’ improvement, a trio of student-athletes earned All-CAA distinction by the league’s head coaches, marking the first time in program history three UNCW players have received a spot on the all-conference team in the same season. Smith and redshirt senior guard Shrita Parker were tabbed Second-Team All-CAA while Suggs was a Third-Team selection.
In her first year with the Seahawks, Barefoot guided the squad to its best start in 10 years after UNCW authored a 7-4 non-conference record, including a 6-0 start at Trask Coliseum. The Seahawks closed out the season with three wins in their final five games, including a 58-47 victory over Towson in the first round of the CAA Tournament.
Barefoot has also made an impact in the Wilmington community during her three years at UNCW. She was featured in the April 2019 edition of WILMA Magazine and was a nominee for the Cape Fear YWCA Woman of the Year Award in May 2019.
Barefoot took over the UNCW program after six successful seasons at Old Dominion, where she guided the Lady Monarchs to a 103-93 record, including five winning seasons and three postseason appearances.