Oct. 13—When the month of November hits, most sports fans are enjoying the onslaught of football. However, college basketball is on the horizon, which was signified by the MIAA Basketball Media Day taking place Oct. 11 in Kansas City, Missouri.
One team that’s looking to continue its rebranding is Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball, who enters this upcoming year with some young talent. The team brought in eight freshmen in last year’s recruiting class, resulting in five of them redshirting.
Now with a full season under their wings, the confidence is high among the redshirts despite the young age.
When the 2022 season kicks off Oct. 26 with an exhibition against the University of Missouri, sophomore Emma Atwood likes the chances of this team doing damage.
“Just that year of experience they have under their belt now, and then like we said, we have no seniors, so it’s just being young. We all learned together last year and grew off one another,” Atwood said. “So that’s really exciting, and then the competition’s great between one another and we push each other every day to get better.”
Although young, the Bearcats return four starters, including MIAA Freshman of the Year Molly Hartnett. Last season, the point guard led the Bearcats in points (11.7) and assists per game (2.6), despite a foot injury.
“She’s somebody that just continues to get better, I think she had a really good summer,” head coach Austin Meyer. “She’s been playing at a high level in our scrimmages, so yeah, we’re expecting a lot more from her.”
The Bearcats also return forward Jayna Green, who led the team in blocks (1.5) per game. The 3-point threat of Peyton Kelderman will also headline some key returners.
Minus the COVID-19 season, the Bearcats have improved their win total every year since the 2017 season. The recent success and foundation of building is due to the character of the athletes brought into the program.
“The kids that are in our program, the kids we’ve added to the program and we’ve, you know, we’ve done a good job recruiting wise,” Meyer said. “Getting good quality kids that want to get better, that work. I feel like our culture is at a really good spot right now.”
The 2021-22 season ended with a quarterfinal loss in the MIAA tournament at Nebraska-Kearney, resulting in a 17-12 overall record.
The Bearcats had opportunities to reach 20+ wins on the season, but they lost eight contests that were decided by eight points or less, something they want to improve upon heading into the new season.
“I think we’re in a great spot. Obviously a lot of accomplishments last year, but can’t be satisfied. Like we said the last four or five years, we’ve just continuously built off the previous year,” Atwood said . “Just looking at our accomplishments last year and then just building off of those, and just a lot of games we had that we lost by single digits. Just eliminating those and just figuring out what we need to fix.”
Another aspect Northwest will look to improve is its offense.
Last season, the Bearcats ranked 12 out of 14 teams in the MIAA in points per game. Since the preseason, the team is becoming more confident in its offensive ability.
“We have days where someone’s just going off on offense and then the next day again,” Atwood said. “I don’t know, it’s hard to say specific people just because that’s how deep we are.”
Calvin Silvers can be reached at email@example.com.