The Collegian
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Young women's basketball team excited to start season

Rachael Bliney, '12
Rachael Bliney, '12

Collegian Reporter

The women's basketball team is trying to gain respect as it begins the season at 7 p.m. tomorrow against Kennessaw State University in the Robins Center.

"The hard part about opening the season is the excitement the players feel," said coach Michael Shafer. "So there's naturally jitters, there's mistakes simply because people are really excited. They're focused, but they may be over-focused."

Senior Johanna McKnight said she was most excited about seeing how much the team had grown and how much the players, specifically the younger ones, had come together as a team.

Thus far, the team has had a scrimmage and an exhibition game, which showed the team could be successful, Shafer said.

The team played the games early so it would have more time to address issues, he said.

"In both, we were inconsistent," Shafer said. "At the exhibition game, we did a better job of trusting teammates and were smarter with the basketballs.

"I expect our team to play incredibly hard and compete, and if they can do those two things, they can win. But really what I'd like them to do is get off to a good start and earn a little bit of confidence."

McKnight said she thought getting people to support the team and gaining the respect of the student body would be a challenge for the team this season.

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"Our biggest challenge this season will be to show people who we really are; to gain back the respect that we have amongst ourselves," she said.

Sophomore Brittani Shells said she was most excited about starting a new season.

"I'm coming in with more experience and leading this team," she said. "I'm at a different position this year. It's challenging in a way, but at the same time it's exciting because it's automatically putting me in a leadership position, as the point guard position.

"I'm excited this year for a whole new season, because I know it's going to be a great season. ... You can feel it."

The team is much more close-knit this year because members have been putting time into getting to know each other, Shells said. They hang out with each other off the court, during meals and at one another's apartments and dorm rooms.

"Last year it seemed like people were on their own little islands," she said. "But now I feel like everybody on the team is coming together. We're joking around and just having fun with one another. That's very important."

Shafer agreed with Shells: "The group has meshed together in a positive way early," he said. "It's what we've been hoping for. It's what we've been working toward. I'm not going to say we're by any stretch where we need to be at the end, but it just feels good and that's nice."

Two of the freshmen are twins and the other two have been best friends since high school, he said.

"They naturally had a connection amongst each other," Shafer said.

The freshmen have clever, competitive personalities, Shafer said, and the close bond the four freshmen have is an important contribution to the team's closeness. Since the freshmen comprise one third of the team, they helped to connect the rest of the team members, he said.

Shafer said the team had made a lot of progress so far.

"I'm really starting to like my girls," he said. "I'm really starting to like our team. And it's early, which is what makes it exciting. They're starting to show glimpses of things that I've been forecasting, or hoping would come along.

"We have a lot of different pieces on our basketball team and it gives you a lot of flexibility as a coach. I'm really excited about their versatility and their ability to play together, five people playing as one."

Despite the cohesion that the freshmen have provided for the team, they also present a challenge, Shafer said.

"We are playing freshmen, we need to keep them consistent," he said.

Another challenge for the team is rebounding the ball, he said.

"I've already put the challenge on the table for our post players," he said. "They need to produce, better than they did last year."

Contact reporter Taylor Engelson at

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