Expectations riding on young players
Times Staff Writer
Western Women’s Basketball — Adding nine new faces to a roster can be stressful — especially when a team only returns four players from last season.
Western State Colorado women's basketball team faced this dilemma this past summer and has been working hard during the offseason to put together a competitive roster.
“We have nine new players and seven are freshman,” said head coach Lora Westling. “So right now our expectations are to be competitive and see growth in what we are doing and get everyone bought in.”
Getting everyone to buy into Westling’s plan will take time — and come with the expected struggles any team faces with a group of freshmen that outnumber upperclassmen. Additionally, considering that a majority of teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) are returning most of their roster this season, there will be a steep learning curve for the seven freshman.
“We have an incredible group of freshmen,” said Westling. “More importantly, we have some great returners and great upperclassmen who have been showing them the ropes and leading them which helps speed up the learning process.”
Working to be competitive
In coach Westling’s inaugural season last year, she made history by winning seven games — something that hadn’t been done since the 2011-12 season at Western, in which the Mountaineers went 16-15. While going 7-19 during the 2016-17 campaign may not be impressive to some, winning more games than the five games of previous years shows that Western women’s basketball team is headed in the right direction.
“Last year we spent a lot of time putting culture in and talking about expectations,” said Westling. “Our returners really bought into that we were competitive in a lot of games (but) just didn’t have the firepower to finish them off.”
Expectations are higher than they have been in awhile, and the team realizes that it's not out of reach to be competitive in the RMAC.
Team leaders yet to materialize
With multiple new faces on the team this year, Westling has yet to pinpoint a single player that could lead the team.
“We have so many young players and new faces that it’s day to day,” she said. “Some days a few freshman will do something and show they have skills to be good, and the next day it'll be another player.”
Senior Carra Jackson-Brown has caught the eye of the coaching staff. She’s has put in work all summer, resulting in Westling showing confidence in her.
“We know we have to work hard to achieve a better record,” said Brown “Which is exactly what we are in the gym doing everyday.”
Additionally, Tammarrah Gothard, a junior college transfer, adds athleticism to the guard position this season.
In total, the squad’s composition amounts to what Westling describes as a “very balanced team.”
“It'll be a (different) person every night that leads statistical categories,” she said. “I'm pretty excited across the board and for me not to have one name to stick out, I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it'll be interesting to see who takes on the role every night.”
With so many new faces, it’s hard to tell how different personalities will mesh, but this isn’t something Western has had to worry about so far this season.
“I think they respect each other and are working hard together so the chemistry is there,” said Westling. “Each day it’s developing as we figure out individual roles.”
The Mountaineers will open their season tomorrow, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)