By Spencer MacDonald
The sound of basketballs bouncing off the hardwood of the Anderson Athletic Center gym floor and the idle chatter of the 12 players standing around the water cooler was cut short by the voice of Head Basketball Coach Katie Miller.
“Alright, lets run it one more time, one more time!” said Miller as her players broke into two teams and began a transition drill. Miller paced around the court, always in motion, constantly coaching and critiquing her team. At one point, she stops first-year guard Suzanne Miller after she missed a shot at the buzzer that signaled the end of the drill.
“Suze, that’s a good look, I like it.”
Now in her third year, Coach Miller and the women’s basketball team have experienced unprecedented success in the 2013-14 season. The team boasts an 8-7 record along with a 4-3 record in MIAA play, already more wins than the last two years combined.
The Hornet’s four conference wins this year are also more than they have won in the past two years: when they went a combined 3-29 in the MIAA. Although the Program has struggled in the past, Coach Miller and her team are working to build long-term success for the future.
“This change didn’t happen over night,” said Miller. “It is a process and the athletes who we have now have done everything I have asked of them. They want to win games and they’re willing to sacrifice anything to get that done.”
The players in the women’s basketball program feel the change coming as well. Throughout their practice the atmosphere is focused and competitive. It is apparent that the team’s desire to win and improve is strong, as is their team cohesiveness on the court.
“Team chemistry is the biggest change,” said junior captain Emily Lindsay. “This year we have a team that meshes together really well. We know how to play off of each other’s strengths and we know how to find one another.”
Lindsay, her fellow captain senior Nicole Antoine and junior Perri (Weiderman) Nicholson have all earned MIAA player of the week honors this season; the first time since Coach Miller took the reins that three Hornets have won it in the same season. Lindsay and Antoine are both averaging double-digit scoring totals per game this season at 12.0 and 13.3 points per game respectively.
“Nicole has stepped up in terms of being our team leader,” said Coach Miller. “She is our go-to player in crunch time and in those close games when we need a basket.”
The players themselves are pleased with the individual accolades and partially attribute the increase in these to the success that the team is having. These player-of-the-week awards reflect the fact that the women’s basketball program is having success and finding its place on the map.
“It really helps that we’re winning,” said Antoine. “Now they know who to look for and that’s how we get the recognition for player of the week.”
One of the biggest changes this season is that the Hornets are fielding a team with deeper talent than previous years. Four players on the squad are averaging over seven points per game and six are averaging over five points per game, which has made a large impact on the team’s success so far this season. Most players on the team see relatively consistent minutes with eight players averaging over 10 minutes per game.
“We are getting contributions from a lot of players,” said Coach Miller. “That’s what is helping us win. We have some newcomers who have stepped in and helped us, we have some freshmen who have helped us. We have been getting what we need from everybody.”
The Hornets are currently sitting in fourth place out of nine teams in the MIAA, which is where they need to be to make the conference tournament. Although they were projected to finish last in the preseason poll, the team has shocked the conference through their hard work, dedication, and previously unappreciated talent. The players remain confident that they can make it to the postseason, something they have failed to accomplish in the past two seasons.
“Definitely this year we’re about to make the MIAA tournament,” said Lindsay. “I don’t care where we are, we’re going to make it for sure and try to make a run at the title.”
The Hornets are in action again at home Wednesday the 22nd at 7:30 pm versus Trine University.