With the first month of the WNBA season officially in the books, it looks like the New York Liberty are finally hitting their stride. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as the team is starting to find their identity and playing like a more cohesive unit. Individually, players have settled into their roles and are flourishing under head coach John Whisenant’s system, starting center Kia Vaughn being one of them.

There’s a saying about how “the third time’s the charm,” and in the case of Vaughn, the third season is the charm. After averaging only 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game coming off the bench in 2010, her offensive production has nearly quintupled, currently averaging 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a starter this season. While fans may find the improvement on the impressive side, her teammates are not surprised, saying this was a long time coming for Vaughn.

“You started to see it during the playoffs last year,” Cappie Pondexter said after Sunday’s 80-73 victory over the Chicago Sky. “Kia is stepping up and you’re starting to see it now. When you’re starting to play 30-plus minutes, you can’t help but be confident.”

Vaughn sees herself as a “leader by nature,” but credits her teammates for her improvement this season so far. After spending her first two seasons coming off the bench, the transition to starter has been a seamless one and taking on a larger role doesn’t seem to phase the third year center.

“I’m not stressing it,” said Vaughn. “It’s still like any other time playing a role.”

Having the confidence of the coaching staff has also gone a long way for her, admitting the they don’t have any expectations except for her to be aggressive and just play. From what her teammates and coaches have seen so far, she is doing that and more.

“I’ve known she could play that way. It was a matter of when it would come out,” guard-forward Essence Carson said. “I’m happy that it’s coming out this year. She’s worked very hard in the offseason, and she works very hard during practice. It’s really translated into the game. This year she’s become consistent enough, and I’m glad we’re getting to see the Kia Vaughn I’ve always known.”

After playing the Atlanta Dream last night (Wednesday), the Liberty continue their four-game homestand this week. They host the Connecticut Sun on Friday night.