Winter Sports Preview: Women’s Basketball
By Collin Frazier
An abrupt end to last season, a less than ideal start this season and the Lady Oilers basketball team has plenty to battle in the 2020-2021 season.
Head coach Jim Wiedie says there are a lot of things to consider in building this year’s team:
ending so suddenly last season with a loss, the effects of COVID-19 on the team as well as the playing situation with empty stands, and revolving leadership roles.
“We had lost nine seniors from the year before. We lost all five starters, and we lost our top five scorers, and we lost the [GMAC] Player of the Year. So we started four sophomores and a senior last year, and really, the senior was the only one that played major minutes from the previous year,” Wiedie said.
With very few upperclassmen, only eight to be exact, much dependence will come from the underclassmen. Like in many years before, Wiedie fully expects the sophomore class to step up.
“Usually there’s a big transition from freshman year to sophomore year, and if I look back on the year before, when we had that big senior group, Bridget Landin, and Sydney Kin, and Amber Schwieger were freshmen on that team,” Wiedie said. “Bridget and Sydney got to play in that 8-10 minute range because of their position; they’re post players. You always have more guards than you do posts. Amber sat behind a senior in Allie Thobie that played major minutes, so she really didn’t get the run.”
“But, to see where those kids were last year, after one year, there was a tremendous jump. Then you add someone like Paige Bellman, who started at Detroit Mercy [University] as a freshman, the skill level, and the understanding of what we’re doing improves dramatically,” Wiedie said. ”I think someone like Serena Sammarone, who played about 11 minutes last year as a point guard, [will be] backing up Amber. Rachel Cooke, Elizabeth Flynn, who had a good year as a freshman. I’ve already seen major improvements in their game.”
As Wiedie adjusts to the new personnel this year he’s adjusting to the on-going effects of COVID-19.
“It was disappointing from the standpoint that we couldn’t have our kids here this summer,” Wiedie said. “We had to cancel our team camps that we run, so that hurt us for fundraising. But we’ve adjusted, and I think the good thing is that our kids have been pretty upbeat about it [adjusting] and we’ve done whatever we needed to do and whatever we’ve been instructed to do from our AD and the University.”
Wiedie says the preseason went pretty well, even though they all had to wear masks, which wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world for them to play scrimmages.
“But, that’s what we had to do in order to play. So overall, I feel really good about where we’re at right now. I’m just excited that the G-MAC had decided to play in the Winter.”
Wiedie believes this year’s team chemistry is good.
“It helps to have a good nucleus where you don’t have the pettiness, you don’t have the cliques, and I’ve been part of teams in years past where we had some of that and we had to eliminate it,” Wiedie said. “It’s really a testament to the upperclassmen because when these guys came in as freshmen, they were embraced by the upperclassmen and they weren’t treated as freshmen. They were treated just as members of the team, and I think that’s carried on over the years, especially these last four or five years. I think that’s been big in the makeup of our teams, and I think that adds, big time, to the success.”
Along with being able to play this season, Wiedie and the Lady Oilers are looking to better themselves from last season and not just settle for “good enough”.
“I think [what we’re excited for is] to see if we can take that next step. Even though we won 18 games last year, which is pretty good, the schedule was tougher than any we’ve ever had,” Wiedie explained. “It’s going to be all-conference games this year, the fact that we’ve kind of established ourselves at least in that top-four, with Walsh, Cedarville, and Wesleyan.”
The Lady Oilers had a seven-game winning streak going into the G-MAC Semifinal, but their entire season ended, thanks to COVID-19, with a 66-48 loss to Kentucky Wesleyan.
“Wesleyan was a team that gave us lots of problems throughout the season,” said Wiedie. “We had five conference losses, and three of those were to Kentucky Wesleyan. It wasn’t a great matchup for us, we didn’t have a very good offensive game, two of our best kids—Sydney Kin, mainly— was in foul trouble most of the game and eventually fouled out. We played okay in the first half, but from that point on, especially when she had to sit, and Paige Bellman as well, it really put us in a tough spot, and it really kind of exposed how inconsistent we were from a guard standpoint because three of our four top scorers were all post players. So that left a bad taste in our mouth, but I was super pleased with the season we had overall.”
They ended the season18-12. Wiedie says seven of those twelve losses were to teams ranked topped 20 in the country, and two of those were to the #2 and #4 team in the country.
“I think the way the season ended last year, there’s more motivation this year because they saw, as a young group, what they were able to accomplish, and now that you’re a year older, and you’re bringing back all those players, and you’re bringing in four new players that can add to the mix,” Wiedie said. “I think there’s a lot of excitement that it’s not to be contented just to host a first-round conference game. I think they understand how good they are, but it doesn’t mean that we’re just going to be able to roll the ball out and dominate people because we’re not that kind of team. You got to get a little more consistent on how hard we work and how we compete everyday, and that’s still a little bit of work-in-progress. But, I think they understand the potential in what type of season they can have this year.”
The Lady Oilers begin their 2020-2021 season hosting Trevecca Nazarene Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m.