Basketball season has just begun, and the men’s and women’s teams are already hoping to make the conference tournaments, but they’re planning on having fun and striving to improve in the meantime.
The men’s team plays their first game of the season tomorrow (Saturday) against University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. That will be a great test right out the gate, according to Head Coach Brian Vraney, because Whitewater is last year’s Division III National Championship winner.
Vraney said his team−comprised of one senior, nine juniors, five sophomores, and three freshman−is a really athletic team, and his goal is for them to improve every practice and every week.
“We’re looking to put up big points on the offensive end while keeping the same hard-nosed defensive mentality Coach Vraney has instilled in us,” said Steven Dowden’14. “We have a fun team this year. We are going to run up and down the floor on teams and play above the rim with our bigs, James Lazarcik’14, Steven McAfee’16, Grant Henricksen’13, and Tyler Butke’14.”
Besides tomorrow’s game, Dowden is excited for the games against St. Norbert College, Carroll University, and Lake Forest College, as well as the home game against Grinnell College, which he says always seems to be a crowd pleaser.
While Dowden expects to be in the top four teams of the Midwest Conference, Joseph Poshepny’s goal is to win it.
“After that push we made at the end of last year we know we have a group of guys who want to win and know how to win, and I think we will carry that over to this year,” Poshepny’14 said. “We are young, but that is no excuse not to win.”
Vraney agrees the team is working toward that goal, and he added they are going to be an exciting team to watch.
“We’d love to get the campus and community out to support us,” he said. “One of the things I enjoy is I’ve got a great team of guys to coach. They do a great job in the classroom and are good people.”
As for women’s basketball, the team played their first game last night (Thursday) against Rockford College, winning 78-66, fueled by Lauren McNanna's career-high 28 points.
Prior to the game, Head Coach Jennifer McCormick said it would be an exciting match-up and a good test to see where her team stands.
“We have a great group of girls, and they’ve been improving over the first month (of practices) tremendously,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them play together and where they go this season.”
According to McCormick, the strengths of her 13-member team, which includes seven new players, are athleticism, work ethic, and chemistry.
McCormick’s goal is to see improvement throughout the season and to win as many games as possible. Among Jenna Larsen’s goals are to get to the conference tournament and to do it on their own.
“We don’t want to have to rely on someone else losing or winning in order for us to get in,” Larsen’14 said. “Also my main individual goal is to always bring it all on the court and leave it every single day, and have fun. For me, winning is the most fun.”
Kandace Fox’12 said she is hoping to finish third in the conference, and is looking forward to the team developing.
“We take positive steps each day, and I’m excited for us to reach our goals,” she said. “We hope to see a lot of fan support this year. We are excited to begin playing games, especially since our first three games are all at home.”
The women’s basketball team next plays Concordia University tomorrow (Saturday) at home at 2 p.m.