Women's basketball looks to depth, resiliency, as year begins

By Jamie Macpherson

The dropping temperature this past few weeks has signaled the coming of winter, something Mac students meet with mixed emotions. The women’s basketball team is ready though; they play their first game in Texas this weekend. The Scots are looking forward to a good season, despite challenges posed by an injury and the construction of the Macalester Athletic and Recreation Center.”I think [this year is] another step forward for the program,” Head Coach Ellen Thompson said. “We’re continually growing, with new faces to add to the mix.”

Center Suzy Szumowski ’09 agrees. “We’re all really excited. It’s a different team this year; we have really good young players, and what we don’t have in seniority we’ll get in hustling and shooting,” she said. “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of other teams.”

With no seniors and two juniors on the team, the Scots are young. Four incoming first-years have been added to the mix, as well as two transfer students. Their contributions so far are seen as a step up for the team.

“The first-years are really hard workers with lots of energy,” Thompson said. “They are good basketball players looking to be better players.” Thompson believes the increase in roster size will deepen the Scots’ bench, and increase the intensity of their game.

“I think that’s what’s strong about the team,” Szumowski said. “We’re going to have more than five people who can play. [Those on the bench] can give the starters a rest, which increases the pace of the game.”

Thompson is pleased with the results so far. The year before she was hired, the Scots didn’t even have enough women to play. This season there are 12 capable players suiting up. “I think we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Thompson said. “We started at ground zero two years ago. We’ve really come a long way.”

The Scots have already experienced a set back, however, when Elise Pagel ’09 tore her ACL during a pre-season practice. Szumowski described it as a disappointment for the team, saying, “[Pagel] has been there from the beginning, it sucks that she’s missing out on what should be a great season.”

This year, the Scots are also faced with the challenge of playing home games away from Mac while the new athletic facility is under construction. The team has been practicing in the evenings at Cretin Derham-Hall and St. Kate’s, which will serve as the Scots’ home court. With irregular practices and having to take a van to the gym, it hasn’t been easy, but Thompson says she believes the team is adjusting well.

“You just have to sort of roll with the punches,” Thompson said. “We don’t really have a choice, we just have to be patient. .We’re adapting, we’re getting through it.”

Szumowski notes that Thompson is doing her part to help the team meet these challenges. “[The traveling is] definitely a hassle,” Szumowski said. “But [Coach Thompson] has been making sure we’re being taken care of, making sure we get food when we miss dinner at Café Mac.”

As for goals this season, the team looks to up their offensive average, move the ball around more, and increase the percentage of shots. Thompson says she is also expecting the sophomores, who make up the bulk of the team, to step up and really make a contribution. “Our goal is to continue to grow and improve each day,” Thompson said. “.It’s a process, we’re looking to be a better team at the end of February than we are at the beginning of October.