A combination of veterans and rookies have been producing for the Women’s Basketball team. The Scots began their season with a 70-57 win over Crown College sandwiched between losses to Luther College and University of Northwestern (MN). These games serve as out-of-conference tune-ups for the Scots. Their in-conference schedule begins in December and the Scots have one goal in mind: making the playoffs.
“If we play well, we should be making it into the MIAC playoffs in the sixth spot,” said Grace Dickman ’18. “I think I’m feeling the most confident about this year than any of the five years I’ve been here. First years are stepping up. That’s a huge component. Sophomores are playing well. Everyone is playing well.”
The basketball season is a long and grueling one, spanning two semesters and four months, not including preseason practices. The women also return early from winter break, on Dec. 27, to resume practices.
“J-Term is the grind. As soon as you get back, you just kind of have to go and not really think about it,” Regan Fruh ’18 said. The team has to play each MIAC team twice, once at home and once away. This means that although much of the conference is focused around the Twin Cities area, the women will still have to travel to cities like Moorhead and Winona, in addition to two trips to Northfield.
All this will culminate in the MIAC playoffs, a six-team playoff in late February. The Scots hope to be one of those six teams, and certainly believe that they will be in the top half of the 12-team conference. Both Dickman and Fruh discussed what Fruh called the “Big Three” of MIAC women’s basketball: University of St. Thomas, Bethel University and Gustavus Adolphus College. However, beneath those teams, both women emphasize how unpredictable the rest of the conference is and how much room exists for an upset.
“If we play well, we should be making it into the MIAC playoffs. I think I’m feeling (more) confident about this year than any of the five years I’ve been here.” -Grace Dickman ’18
While seniors like Fruh and Leah Gray ’18 have been leaders, they’ve also received help from talented underclassmen. Holly Hull ’20 who is averaging a greater than .400 shooting percentage, and has the second-most steals on the team. Hull is far from the only sophomore adding something to the team’s place, as Tyana Loiselle ’20, who scored 17 points against Luther, is also the team’s joint leader in assists with Justine Barraza ’21. Barraza and fellow first year Kayla Togneri ’21 have both adapted quickly to the college game, and Togneri is the team’s second-leading rebounder and shot blocker.
“We’re really young, which is easy to forget,” Fruh said. “Some of our sophomores played a lot last year, so they kind of feel like upperclassmen even though this is only their second year playing in the MIAC. We’ve had maybe three or four first-years coming in and playing and being real contributors for us. We’ve been able to mesh really well together even though we really haven’t been playing that long together. We’re all very adaptable.”
What’s evident is that the team has undergone a massive shift during the time that this year’s seniors have been playing. During the 2014-15 season, when this season’s seniors were first-years, the program won just three games, with none coming from MIAC play. They built up to three and then five MIAC wins last season, with non-conference victories taking the overall victory total to 11. They hope to top that mark this season and build a culture that expects to win MIAC games. “Having been on a winless [in the] MIAC team my sophomore year, and then seeing the program grow under Kelly (Roysland, the team’s coach) is exciting,” Dickman said. “It’s also exciting to know that we don’t go in as underdogs into every game anymore, and that’s a great feeling. That’s one of the most satisfying feelings.”
The Scots begin MIAC play at home this Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. when they play the 3-2 Concordia-Moorhead Cobbers. The Concordia game kicks off a string of conference games that lead into final exams. Before the Scots take a break at the end of the semester, they will also travel to the College of Saint Benedict before hosting Carleton College and St. Catherine’s University. Post-finals, Macalester will have another brief non-conference period before MIAC play resumes in earnest. With the business end of the season still in front of them, hopes are high for these talented Scots.