Luke Hare, Staff Writer
Forty percent of the Saints Women’s Basketball team is new this season, including four true freshman, which signifies that this is a “rebuilding year.” On top of that, the Saints were only allowed open gyms for the first six weeks, due to NCAA regulations, and two full weeks of practice before their first scheduled game against a Division 1 opponent, the University of Idaho. Yet, they have already developed a bond as if they have been together for much longer.
“In a weird way, not jumping into the full swing of practice for the first few weeks has benefited us in that we are all pretty close to each other off the court,” said senior Rebekah Baugh. “We haven’t had much on court due to limited time but we really seem to be moving forward and now that practice has started, things are really seeming to move forward.”
While some people may only think that the few hours of open gym hurt the team, others look at the positives that those hours bring to the team.
“I mean practice has its benefits for sure, but these scrimmages really help us keep the pace of play up,” said junior and transfer Megan Nilsson. “With us just being able to play ball at a fast pace, it helps us realize that we aren’t just a set up and call a play type of team. We want to be the team tiring out the other team in the latter half of the game, not us having that done to us.”
Just as the school year started, the team went on a week-long vacation to help them bond as a group off court.
“This really brought us closer as a team. Having time to just be with each other outside of basketball really immerses us into team culture, keeps us on the same page for our season goals, and gives us expectations of what we expect to do on the court,” said Nilsson.
This year, the Saints will try to replace their graduated senior Elin Johansson. Last year, she led the team in rebounds, blocked shots, and was tied for the team high in point per game. The plan to replace her has not been to try to replicate her as just one player but to fill the needs of the team as a whole.
“The new girls are really quick and can move really well,” said Baugh. “We don’t have to wait for them to set up in their position. They are very agile and that benefits us because it doesn’t let the defense set up or have us slow down and wait for them to get down to set up. We like to push the ball in transition and beat the other teams down the court.”
With Baugh playing all four years of her collegiate career at Saint Martin’s, she has seen many versions of the SMU women’s basketball team and believes the Saints are a much stronger team this year than the years before.
“We are a much stronger and faster team. A lot more people on the team are vocal and have their own leadership role,” said Baugh. “We aren’t just leaning on one girl to take over for the whole season. Any given night it could be either guard or post. We are more balanced than before. Every single one of us could be the girl that is having that hot streak and that is something that benefits us all.”