By JOSH JOHNSON
The women’s basketball team entered the season ranked 13th nationally, following a 30-1 season last year.
“Preseason rankings are based on last year,” said Head Women’s Basketball Coach Deena Applebury. “It’s humbling and nice to know that we are respected in that manner, but we still need to prove ourselves worthy of that ranking this year.”
The team has played well thus far, though they suffered their first loss of the season over the weekend, putting their record at 4-1 on the year.
“As a team, this was certainly a learning weekend for all of us,” said junior guard Sam Partonen. “Unfortunately, we suffered our first loss, but, thankfully, we did not let it become too much of a step back.”
Coach Applebury was optimistic about the team’s play so far. “We have had good play overall, especially with all the youth and so few seniors,” Applebury said.
The team’s lone loss came at the hands of Greensboro College. “Not paying attention to detail and not making game-time adjustments cost us that game,” said Applebury.
The players concurred.
“It was definitely a reality check in that we realized we needed to come together and do the little things in order to be successful, which is exactly what we did on Sunday,” said Partonen.
The team has a lot of youth and has a lot of room for quick improvements, as they showed on Sunday. “The number one thing we have to improve on is man to man defense and rotations. We really need to communicate, rotate and help more efficiently,” said Applebury.
The team suffered in man-to-man situations and rotations in the Greensboro game.
“The biggest challenge we will probably face this year is to not get down on ourselves when we face adversity,” said Partonen. “I have never seen a group of girls so willing to work on themselves. I never want to see my team beat themselves up too much. It is important for us to not dwell on any mistakes.”
Partonen seems to truly believe in the ability of this young team. “This team is extremely resilient and works unbelievably hard, so combine that with incredible coaching and we are pretty sure we can face any challenge,” she said.
The team clearly seems to have a short memory and confidence, which will be imperative if they hope to make another deep postseason run.
“The caliber of our team is going to be whatever we decide to make it. This group of girls has all of the tools we need to succeed; experienced, unbelievable coaching, a dedicated work ethic and the overall desire to do well,” said Partonen. “People can say we are young, but I think that youth and willingness to learn is what will make us so successful.”
Moving forward, the team hopes to have many players step up and really rise as a team.
“Everyone needs to be able to hold themselves accountable. This year will be no different than years past in that leadership will come from a variety of people on the team,” said Applebury.
The team has many areas where it can improve. “Our keys to success will be our attention to detail and remaining consistent,” Applebury said.
The team’s possibilities seem somewhat ambiguous, as the season is still young. “At the end of the day, our goal is to be the best that this year’s team can be,” said Partonen. “I have a feeling that the sky is really the limit for this team, and my biggest goal is that every single player recognizes we are going to be as good as we decide to be.”
The team will play 25 games this year before proceeding to conference tournament play. Nine of the team’s games will be at home this year, with the next one versus Washington and Lee on Thursday, Nov. 29