By Michelle Dreiling
Unfinished business. Great expectations. High hopes. This year’s women’s basketball team has one important thing to prove this season: that they have what it takes to be No. 1 in the conference.
Things are looking positive for the Lady Builders. The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference pre-season polls were released Thursday, with Southwestern tied with Sterling for first place in the coaches’ poll.
The team ended last season with an 18-10 overall record. They went 13-5 in the conference. With their devastating last-minute loss to Tabor in the quarterfinals of the KCAC tournament, the returning players are definitely going into this season with something to prove.
Dave Denly, head women’s basketball coach, said, “Our loss to Tabor here in the last seconds of conference tournament was tough.” Denly would like his team to improve this year. He said, “The mental toughness and discipline it takes to execute and understand the game, being able to make decisions at a quicker pace, and understanding that every single possession is important. We give up way too many turnovers at this point.”
Nonetheless, the head coach is excited about the upcoming season. “Team wise, my biggest goal is to see how our team reacts to the chemistry of the newcomers and the returners. I want us to be more explosive offensively, score some more points, be competitive and make sure that our effort is the best we can give every day,” said Denly.
Dave Denly became athletic director July 10. One concern is whether or not this will affect his ability to coach the women’s basketball team. “Obviously it will have a little effect. But once we get into practice, I’ll find a balance. Basketball is my passion, it’s the priority,” said Denly.
Leading returners and this year’s captains are Melissa Borthwick, senior forward, Jordan Jarnagin, senior guard, and Tylar Hartfield, junior forward.
Being tied for first has little effect on one captain’s focus. Borthwick said, “Pre-season polls are nice to look at and acknowledge, but as Coach says, those rankings weren’t earned by this team. They were earned by the hard work of the Lady Builder basketball teams before this one. It’s nice because it breeds some competitive edge. Being tied with anyone is bad enough, not to mention Sterling, but we have to prove ourselves on the court for it to mean anything.”
The captains also hope for some improvements from last year. Jarnagin said, “Personally, I want us to be undefeated in conference play. Our team has a lot of quickness this year so we hope to get up and down the floor faster.”
Borthwick said, “When you bring in so many new players as well as losing your senior, the team dynamic changes, but not necessarily in a bad way. We are more competitive this year it seems like and we have a lot of depth to play with. Last year we were a young team. This year we have all had a year to mature as a team as well as gaining some experienced transfers which will really help. We are collectively faster than we’ve ever been and we will be playing a faster paced game which will be fun.”
“We are all extremely excited for this year. We have worked very hard in the pre-season to be able to come into practice and get to business and we expect to be a very hard team to beat this year. We appreciate all the support our fans have shown us in the past and we ask that they continue that this year. We hope that everyone comes out to watch us and the guys,” said Borthwick.
The team’s season opener is at 5 p.m. Nov 5 at Mid America Christian. The first conference game will take place at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 against the University of St. Mary at home.
Michelle Dreiling is a senior majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.