Women’s basketball ready for high expectations

Sam Tapper Sports Writer

After a disappointing 2018-19 season where the Owls finished under .500, the women’s basketball team’s season is right around the corner, and their sights are set on a more successful year.

The Owls finished with a record of 14-15 last year, and their season came to an early end in the first round of the NE10 Conference Tournament. All season, the Owls battled a bundle of injuries, limiting their personnel. Though it was a tough task at the time, head coach Kate Lynch said she believes that experience will help them this year.

“Honestly, we couldn’t have been more proud of our group for sticking with it,” said Lynch of last season’s challenges. “Because we had some of those injuries last year, some of our play more than maybe they were going to, so I think that gives us a little bit more experience. So we are really looking forward to this year with that experience coming back. We do have high hopes for this group.”

Due to all the injuries last season, one of the players who saw a change in her role midseason was current senior guard Imani Wheeler, who was the team’s starting point guard a year ago.

“[Last season] was kind of rough, we had to really work with what we had,” said Wheeler. “My role had to change a little bit and make up for the points that we lost.”

Though last year was not the Owls’ best, in 2017-18, the Owls went 21-10 with an NCAA tournament berth. This year, the Owls return a plethora of talent, including experienced seniors like Wheeler and forward Kiana Steinauer. Though practices have only gotten underway this week, the Owls have come in ready to work and reclaim their former glory from 2017-18.

“We’ve definitely set the expectations pretty high,” said Steinauer. “We know coach knows our expectations now, so we obviously can’t go below that. Ultimately, everyone’s working really hard, and we have a lot of awesome leaders on the team. The freshmen are doing awesome; they’re clicking well with everyone. It’s just really awesome. We’re so excited to be practicing.”

This year the Owls will open the season in an away game against division one opponent Yale University in New Haven. Their two-game preseason
exhibition schedule will then conclude with a trip to Canada, where they will play McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The game will serve as a homecoming for Steinauer and junior guard Aaliyah Walker, who are both from Ontario.

“I’m just really excited,” said Steinauer, who is originally from Oakville, Ontario, located in between Hamilton and Toronto. “That will be awesome for all of our friends and family to see us play. It’s going to be a different country, so I feel like people don’t know what to expect, which, ultimately, it’s not that different, but I’m just really excited. My family is really excited, and all my friends will be excited.”

Though part of the intent was to grant the Canadiannative players a chance to go home and play in front of family and friends, the talent they will be facing in the preseason will surely get them ready for the regular season. The Owls are no strangers to division one opponents, as they played against UConn in Hartford last season and will also face UMass later this year

“We always like to schedule one or two division one local colleges,” said Lynch. “If we want to be the best, you’ve got to try and beat the best; you’ve got to compete with the best. They’re going to be bigger and stronger, but if we can compete with those guys, it’s going to be really good for us in the NE10.”

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