Pedersen, Sun enjoying their winning ways

Mohegan — Kayla Pedersen rejoined the Connecticut Sun this season after they had stumbled through a 3-5 start.

That was actually a good record based on what Pedersen experienced during her first five WNBA seasons.

Pedersen had never enjoyed a winning season until this summer with Connecticut, which hosts to the Chicago Sky on Friday in its regular season home finale (Mohegan Sun Arena, 7 p.m.).

The Sun are 20-10 and have clinched at least one home playoff game.

"It's encouraging to kind of turn that corner in my WNBA career," said Pedersen, a reserve post. "It's refreshing and fun."

Nearly every Sun player has been through at least one losing season with the franchise.

Alex Bentley and Alyssa Thomas, who've been with Connecticut since 2014, and Pedersen (2013-15) have the most tenure with the team. Lucky them because 2013 was the start of four of the worst seasons in franchise history.

No one in the Sun locker room has experienced losing more in the WNBA than Pedersen, though. She's endured a Master's degree program in losing, starting with her rookie season with the epic fail known as the 2011 Tulsa Shock (now Dallas Wings).

The 2011 Shock established all-time abysmal WNBA records in fewest wins (3-31), longest losing streak (20) and worst winning percentage (.088). No team in the Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL or MLS history has had a worst winning percentage.

Tulsa was slightly less awful the following year (9-25). It lost seven of its first nine games in 2013 when it traded Pedersen to the Sun, who finished a franchise-worst 10-24.

Connecticut went 13-21 in 2014, and 15-19 the following year.

"You still have people who come in and work hard," Pedersen said about her first three seasons with the Sun. "It's your profession. It's what we love to do. You want to give it your all. But when you lose, it's harder to stay positive. So all the negatives kind of get compounded.

"When you win, it's kind of easier to overlook that kind of stuff. It is kind of a drag (losing). So it makes it feel all the more better now."

Pedersen took last season off to work for a youth ministry while Curt Miller took over as Sun head coach. She has the freshest perspective, then, on how things have changed for the better.

"It means a lot to be on a winning team and, more than that, a team that supports each other and has each other's back," Pedersen said. "At the professional level, it's amazing. I almost feel like I'm back in college (Stanford).

"The locker room culture, our coaching staff has done a great job of bringing in players who buy in and give it their all and support each other. This is the most positive group I've been part of professionally. So it's amazing."

Thomas said, "It's more like a team now. Before, I can't say that we played like a team. Now, it's just fun to have everybody on the same page and fighting for each other out there."

The Sun are third in the overall WNBA standings. They have a two-game lead over the New York Liberty (18-12), and both have four games left in the regular season.

Realistically, Connecticut is in a three-team race with New York and the Washington Mystics (17-12) for the third and fourth seeds. Those seeds get a first-round bye and six welcome days off between the end of the regular season (Sept. 3) and the second round (Sept. 10).

Washington plays at the Liberty on Friday, and plays host to the Sun on Tuesday.

• Friday is the final day of the Connecticut's food drive. Fans are encouraged to drop off canned goods and non-perishable food at collection bins around the Mohegan Sun Arena concourse.


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