After reaching the Conference playoffs last season, the Women’s Basketball team hopes to come into the 2019-2020 season and improve upon their 15-11 record from last year. The 2018-2019 season for the Mules was certainly one to be proud of, and it shows that there are great things ahead for this team. After winning their first nine games, the team went on to drop their next six before riding a four-game win streak. They would then go on to trade wins and losses for the rest of the season, ultimately managing to reach the Centennial Conference playoffs, where they would unfortunately lose their first game to Ursinus.
It’s a diverse and different team this year, where everyone must contribute positively.
“What our team needs to do this season in order to remain a top contender for the playoffs is to play to our strengths,” said Ashley Polera ‘20.
“We have a lot of very talented players who each have their own individual special strengths, and we need to be confident in those abilities,” Polera added.
However, the team definitely feels that they could have performed better last year.
“We didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to last year, even though we made it to the playoffs,” said Emilie Benton ‘20. “This year we are looking to return to the playoffs, and the ultimate goal is a conference championship and a run in the NCAA tournament,” Benton continued.
Luckily, their defense does not need much improvement, allowing only 52.07 points per game last season, the lowest allowed by the program since the beginning of the shot-clock era.
As long as they play to their strengths, the team will have nothing but success going into this season. “During times in our season where we were not playing our best…we tried to do things differently and [were] out of our comfort zones,” said Polera.
Staying on target will be key this year if the Lady Mules want to be successful in 2019-2020. “We need to stay focused on our goals and play our best every single day, both [in] practices and games,” said Benton. “We are a competitive team and everyone wants another championship, so we’re excited to get started,” she stated.
While their season may not start till Nov. 9, when the Lady Mules tip off at Salisbury, preseason beginning Oct. 15 means the Mules must get back into the swing of things.
“We work very hard in the pre-season to get ourselves back in physical and mental shape for the start of our season. Our trainer has us lifting three times a week, conditioning twice a week and we play pick up together three times a week as well. Having the opportunity to play with and train with one another builds our team chemistry and gives us the chance to learn how we play with one another before practices begin,” Polera said.
Getting in shape for the season is going to be crucial to the team’s success this year. Their trip to Italy has also been key to helping this team. “We started playing in August when the team traveled to Italy. We had two very tough games abroad and we learned what we need to work on before the season starts. Even though official practices don’t start until Oct. 15, we’ve been playing pickup games along with lifting and conditioning almost every day,” said Benton. “We take these very seriously and we try to get better every day. As our strength and conditioning coach Darin Thomas says, ‘Are you getting better or are you getting by?’ We’ve been working hard and hope to see the results once games start,” added Benton.
Polera completely agrees with Benton on the impactfulness of Coach Thomas’s words. “That saying pushes us to challenge each other every day and is a driving factor that will get us back to the top of the Centennial Conference this year,” Polera made clear.
However, the ladies need to deal with the loss of six integral seniors. While this may seem like a daunting task, they seem to be up for the challenge. This team’s mindset is to prove that even though they lost those six key players to graduation, they are as good as they have ever been.
Redemption is on their minds this season. “It’s always hard to lose a senior class, especially one [that] was so big and carried a large leadership role on the team. However, this year we intend to prove that our tradition of success does not leave with each graduating class,’’ said Polera. “Last year, there were many obstacles our team faced, and that hindered our ability to achieve the goals we set out for that year, but that is not what the result of this year will be,” she added.
They are motivated to not only reach the playoffs, but to get farther than they did last year. “The seniors were a big part of the team last year, so this year everyone knows that each person needs to step up. We still have the same goal of winning another championship. That’s always the end goal,” said Benton.
“We need to start the season with the mindset of winning each day. Each game is important, and we need to bring a lot of energy every single day,” said Benton. “We can’t wait to get the season started and hope that we see lots of people coming to the games and supporting our team.”