The women’s basketball team was in nonstop action this season. Jarrod Olson, head coach for the women’s basketball team, described this season as a “rollercoaster.” It has had many ups and downs, but around every sharp turn, the Lancers learned big lessons and improved.
“We are finally getting the groove and understanding our roles on the team,” said Nae Nae Calhoun, junior early childhood studies major and point guard for the team.
The women’s basketball team was in the top five WAC tournament standings and ended the season at No. 3 overall with a record of 19-13.
As the Lancers approached the WAC tournament, each game was critical. The main goal was to take home as many wins as possible.
“At this point of the season, [the games] are all big, but the WAC tournament is the biggest event of our season,” Olson said. “If we win this year, we will advance to the NCAA tournament. That would be a huge accomplishment.“
Olson also described the team’s characteristics that would benefit them during the WAC tournament.
“Toughness and competitiveness [will help us],” Olson said. “We have played a lot of close games this season, and I think that will help us in the tournament.”
This season was full of growth for the Lancers, both as a team and as individuals. These elements coupled together have led the team to succeed.
Olson also discussed Grace Schmidt’s impressive work and one of the team’s best wins.
“Grace Schmidt has had one of the best freshman seasons in school history,” Olson said. “As a team, we had a great win at Stephen F. Austin. SFA is one of the toughest places in the country to play, and that is one of the best wins in school history.”
Olson said that the team has also improved in defense and three-point shooting throughout the season.
“It has been great to see the team’s hard work pay off in those areas,“ Olson said.
These great payoffs are a direct result of team members pursuing personal goals for the overall benefit of the team.
“This season, my personal goal was for us as a team to just unite as one and play the best basketball we could,” Calhoun said. “On top of that, I wanted to be the best teammate I could be on and off the court and just have fun, as well as be the best defender I could be to better the team dynamic on defense.”
Overlap can be seen among personal goals, like being the best they can for the team. The Lancers show a heart of service toward each other through these goals.
“A personal goal for this season is to build on what I can offer to the team and to keep improving as an all-round player,” said Chloe Webb, senior early childhood development major and guard for the women’s basketball team.
Webb and Calhoun faced unique challenges this season. Since they are both new to the team, they struggled to adjust at first.
“One thing for me was just buying into the system with me being new to the program,” Calhoun said. “As soon as I bought in, I was able to find the transition easier and started to love the game again.”
It is difficult to adjust to any new program. You must find your place, know who you are and know what you can offer.
“This season for me has been a bit of a rollercoaster with its highs and lows,” Webb said. “It was difficult for me to figure out my place on the team and to adjust to a new system, being a transfer this year, so I think finding myself and what I can provide for the team was one of the challenges.”
This season may have posed some difficulties, but Webb and Calhoun said there were also incredible moments along the way.
“One of my favorite memories so far this season was when we hosted New Mexico State and there were 4,000 children from surrounding schools who came to watch us play,” Webb said. “It was an amazing atmosphere to experience, with thousands of kids rooting for us, but they may have also been excited just to be out of school.”
Some of these moments would include team bonding experiences and monumental wins.
“[One of my favorite moments from this season] would be going to Italy with the team and getting to know my teammates, and then when we beat GCU at home,” Calhoun said.
Everything the Lancers have been working towards came to a head at the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas from March 6-11.
The Lancers took on Utah Tech first and won 81-72. The improvement in three-point shooting shone through during this game. Tiena Niele and Sila Finau scored some crucial threes during this game that would seal the victory for the Lancers and take them to the semi-finals.
The next opponent was the No. 1 seeded Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks. This was not the Lancers’ first rodeo with the Ladyjacks, as they took the Ladyjacks down on Jan. 28 at Sawmill in Nacogdoches. At the WAC tournament, the Lancers took them down again 69-64. Both the starting line-up and the bench were essential in scoring for both games.
Barros and Webb scored major points in the semifinal game and paved the way to the championship.
The team came face to face with No. 2 seeded regular-season champions Southern Utah University in the WAC tournament championship. This would prove to be the toughest opponent yet, and would lend the victory to Southern Utah 82-73. The Thunderbirds started the first half aggressively and defended the lead all the way to the end. The Lancers also struggled with fouls with a total of 31 fouls overall.
This season has given the Lancers the opportunity to gain more understanding, improve overall and become better as individuals. Not only did the Lancers succeed in basketball but they also succeeded as individuals.
“I have learned so much this season: Just to be myself and [that] there are things that are bigger than basketball,” Calhoun said. “I have had life lessons being taught on a day-to-day basis and just realizing basketball creates lifelong friends.”
An important attitude that aided in personal growth and overall success was compounding on small victories everyday.
“It is important to develop the mindset of trying to work at getting 1% better each day,” Webb said. “Although you might not see results and successes immediately, it’s important to stay ready and keep growing so when your time comes. [Then], you can contribute to the team’s success.”
It has certainly been a memorable season for the women’s basketball and for many of the players on the team as well. Despite losing the opportunity to move on to the NCAA tournament, the Lancers will continue their season at the Women’s Basketball Invitational on March 17-19 in Lexington, Ky.