That sums up Ty Margenthaler's assessment of his first season as the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball coach.
"The biggest thing I was pleased with [was] I thought we competed night in and night out against everybody," he said. "The effort was there. No question we wanted to win a few more games and get into the conference tournament. I'm a competitor. Our goals are higher than what we achieved.
"But we were picked last in the conference and we didn't finish there. I'm proud of that."
The Redhawks went 7-22 overall and 4-12 in Ohio Valley Conference play to finish 10th in the 11-team league.
But Margenthaler knew things would not be easy when he took over a program that has experienced plenty of success but had fallen on hard times.
Southeast's 2009-10 and 2010-11 squads both lost 21 games to equal the previous low-water mark. Those clubs went a combined 15-42, including 8-28 in the OVC.
"I knew it was a tough situation," Margenthaler said. "And losing Katie Norman and Brooke Taylor [both did not play this year because of injuries], that really set us back another step."
Margenthaler is far from discouraged despite this season's struggles.
Margenthaler is confident of a much more talented roster next season when the Redhawks combine nine returning scholarship players -- a group that includes Norman and Taylor -- along with likely six newcomers.
"We have a good nucleus coming back. We have good experience and a good freshman class coming in," Margenthaler said.
Southeast had just three seniors, including starting guards Bianca Beck and Karley Evans. They ranked third and fourth on the Redhawks in scoring with 7.0 and 6.9 points per game, respectively.
Beck, Southeast's point guard, led the squad in assists with 102 and steals with 35. Evans tied for first with 34 3-pointers and was second with 67 assists.
Junior forward Brittany Harriel was Southeast's top scorer and rebounder, averaging 10.2 points and 6.9 boards (ninth in the OVC). She scored double figures in seven of the final eight games.
Harriel ranked among the OVC's top 15 in rebounding and blocked shots (18) and would have been high in field-goal percentage (46.0) if she had enough attempts to qualify.
"I thought Brittany took her game to another level. I'm excited about that," Margenthaler said.
Junior forward Bailie Roberts was the Redhawks' second-leading scorer and rebounder with 9.7 points and 6.1 boards.
True freshman guard Allyson Bradshaw, a Notre Dame Regional High School graduate, averaged 5.3 points off the bench and tied Evans for the team lead in 3-pointers with 34.
Other key reserves were sophomore forward Patricia Mack (3.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg), junior guard Shelah Fields (2.3 ppg) and true freshman guard Yelena Rosado (2.4 ppg).
Margenthaler hopes to have Norman and Taylor healthy next season.
Norman, a guard who has two years of eligibility left, missed the entire campaign with back problems. She was the 2010-11 squad's co-leading scorer with an 8.9-point average while leading the Redhawks with 46 assists and 31 3-pointers.
"I was excited about having them this year," Margenthaler said. "Hopefully they'll both come back healthy because they're really going to help us."
Southeast landed four high school seniors during the early signing period: Jackson forward/center Connor King, Jackson combo guard Dru Haertling, combo guard Olivia Hackman from Jefferson City, Mo., and guard Kara Wright from Louisville, Ky.
The Redhawks also have a verbal commitment from forward/center Jessica Bygate, a freshman at Moberly (Mo.) Area Community College who plans to sign in April.
Margenthaler said the Redhawks also plan to sign a sixth recruit, which would put them at the maximum of 15 scholarship players allowed by the NCAA for women's basketball.
And excited about the state of the program.
"Our future is bright," he said. "It's a process. The way we're doing it, mainly with high school players, we're building for long term. It doesn't happen overnight and it may not happen next year, but I believe success is not very far off. I really like the direction we're heading."