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No love lost in Berenato matchup

| Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009

As single-minded about the Pitt women's basketball team as Agnus Berenato appears, she's the first to tell you that coaching is what she does, not who she is.

She is a mother and a wife. And as a proud mom of a freshman about to play in her first college basketball game, Berenato will attend Seton Hill's pregame reception Tuesday at the Holiday Inn in Oakland. She'll hug her daughter, Clare, as well as the Griffins coach and a woman Berenato considers a role model, Ferne Labati.

Then, she'll head up the road to Petersen Events Center and do everything she can to make sure her team beats the tar out of both of them.

Pitt opens its season at 7p.m. Tuesday with an exhibition game against Division II Seton Hill.

"I told (Clare) I love her, and I'm so proud of her -- until tipoff," Agnus Berenato said.

Before you feel bad for Clare Berenato, whose team is an overwhelming underdog in the exhibition, understand that she feels exactly the same way.

"We all love each other, but it's business," said the Oakland Catholic grad, a 5-foot-10 guard on full scholarship at the Greensburg university. "It's a game; you want to do everything you can to win."

Berenato has never coached for or against any of her five children.

"I just think that I'm the mom, I'm there to support and encourage and be positive (when it comes to sports)," Agnus said. "Someone else can tell them what they're not doing right."

Clare Berenato said her mother's policy taught them responsibility.

"She's never woke us up for practice or told us to get off the couch and practice or go shoot around," she said. "She wasn't going to push us. It taught us that if we want something, other people aren't going to do it for us. We have to do it ourselves."

That doesn't mean members of the Berenato family have never competed against one another.

Quite the contrary.

In the Berenato household, anything from checkers to chores can become a competition.

"You don't understand how upset we get with each other," Agnus Berenato said. "If (Clare) wasn't raised in that environment, she might have some emotional attachment to this game, but she's done this since she was a child. Who makes the best dinner• Who cleans up the fastest• We'll be driving home from church in two or three different cars, and the competition is who can get in the house and turn the alarm off first. We'll be fighting at the door. Then, we go sit and have dinner."

The Seton Hill players have been to the Berenatos' house for dinner. Meanwhile, Clare Berenato has known most of the Pitt players longer than she's known her own teammates, and spent every day this summer working out with the Panthers.

The connections don't end there.

Labati first coached against Agnus Berenato when she was a high school player in New Jersey, then again in college. They have since coached against one another countless times in subsequent stops in their careers, and each considers the other a great friend.

Just not on the court, where Berenato admits it can get ugly.

The Panthers coach said she's getting more anxious the closer it gets to the exhibition tipoff.

"I can't even imagine (Clare) wearing a different jersey and me pulling for my team," Berenato said. "Or if Clare gets a rebound, and there I am in the huddle yelling, 'How are you going to let Clare Berenato get a rebound?' But it will be professional. ... I guarantee you she feels the same way."

Additional Information:

Seton Hill at a glance

The Panthers open their exhibition season at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Petersen Events Center against the Division II Greensburg-based university. Here's a quick look at Seton Hill's women's basketball team:

Conference : West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

2008-09 record : 18-11

Leading scorer : 6-0 forward Katie Lintner (15.4 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game; named to WVIAC First Team)

Notable : Won 13 of their last 16 games last year, just their second season in the NCAA and WVIAC. ... Return all 12 members of last season's team.

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