There’s almost one thing you can count on for sure with the women’s basketball team: they’re going to win.
The Lions are coming off another impressive season, sharing a conference title and winning the conference tournament. This is a new year for the team and they are starting brand new, having to deal with the loss of Co-NAIA National Player of the Year Bridgette Reyes. The team also lost Sharpshooter Diana Neves, Jaclyn Blied, and All –Conference performer Rachel Copeland.
Vanguard won its 10th GSAC title last year and Coach Russ Davis won Coach of the Year yet again.
Although the Lions have lost a lot of talent, their reputation and having the best coach in the country has given them the preseason ranking of number five in the country.
The Lions return senior all-conference point guard Sarah Boyd, who will be stepping up her role as a scorer to help the team. Also, senior Molly Pfohl and sophomore Allison Burns are back and ready to contribute in the frontcourt. Unfortunately, a huge blow hit the team early on in practice when senior three-year captain Paige Halberg went down with a fractured knee. Halberg made the tough decision to red-shirt her senior year so she can come back full strength next year. It is a big loss to the team, but not something they can’t overcome.
“We definitely miss her out there,” senior point guard Boyd said.
Although it is a tough blow to Halberg, she is taking it in stride and handling it with class; you wouldn’t expect anything less from a three-year captain.
“If I can’t help them by playing, I can help them by teaching and leading,” Halberg said.
Although the team is very young and inexperienced, their work ethic, talent and togetherness is already showing up in practice.
“We’re extremely young,” sophomore guard Veronica Beaver said. “I think that confidence is starting to come.”
The Lions have eight new players this year; six true freshmen and two junior college transfers. With that many new players, chemistry will be hard to come by. Coach Davis and the returning players will help lead by example on what it means to play Lion basketball.
For the team to succeed this season, they are going to have to do the little things, the things that don’t show up in the stat books. Defense and unity have always been instilled since day one; everyone on the team needs to do their job.
“This is what our program is based upon and we don’t expect anything less, mediocrity is not okay on this team,” Beaver said.
Along with hard work, the girls will have to execute the drive and kick Oregon offense. The offense is targeted for driving to the basket and passing it to the open shooters. The team has plenty of long ball threats, including red-shirt sophomore Chelsea Alfafara, who will look to make an immediate impact on the court.
With fresh faces and a fresh season, the Lions look to pick off right where they left off: on top. The Lions’ preseason has included a win over 10th ranked Westminster (60-43) and exhibition games against Cal Berkley and Stanford. They struggled against the Cal Bears, losing 41-79; luckily the results do not count against the teams record. The team also lost to Stanford by a score of 116-65. Despite the loss, the one positive is this is the most points the team has scored against the Cardinals in previous exhibitions. The
Lions played UCLA on Monday, Nov. 8; however results weren’t available at time of publication.
The Lions will travel to the Midwest to play 19th ranked Bethel (TN), ninth ranked Freed- Hardeman (TN) and the number one ranked team, Union (TN), a two-time national champion.