Team cohesion key for this season, coach says

Rachel Mills
Review staff writer

Despite a slow start for the women’s basketball season, with four losses in the first two weeks, 11-year head coach Robyn Stewart said they are not backing down.
“We are focusing on ourselves and our performance,” Stewart said. “We’ve really improved in a lot of ways since our last games.”
Junior post Kelsey Forrest said this improvement is the reason for the preseason games.
“Our goal for the preseason isn’t necessarily to win,” Forrest said. “We want to improve and prepare ourselves for our [Northwest] Conference games.”
With a 10-day rest between games, many coaches would have found it difficult to keep the players motivated and working hard.
But Forrest said the rest was beneficial and allowed the team time to focus on its game and fix mistakes.
However, she said 10 days is a long break.
“I’m definitely ready for a game,” Forrest said.
Team practices during the last two weeks have focused on areas the team has struggled with. Stewart said the primary issues are communication and team cohesiveness.
With only three of 14 players returning to the team, the players have struggled to get to know one another’s playing styles.
“It’s been one of our growing pains,” Stewart said. “The girls have had to learn where others like to play, what they like to do when they get the ball, where they will be when they want a pass. It’s been tough.”
But Stewart said the break provided the players with time to come together as a team.
“Our communication has really improved, which is important for us,” she said.
Forrest said communication was an issue the team worked to address.
“We are a quiet team, so we had to concentrate on speaking to one another more,” Forrest said. “I think we’ve grown more comfortable with one another over the break.”
Despite the losses, Stewart said she saw a lot of
positive performances from her players.
“We shot well for the most part,” Stewart said. “We had some good moments on defense and offense both. Now we need to take these good times and sustain them.”
Stewart is looking at the team’s ability to play by reaction. She said she wants her players to be able to get the ball and know what to do with it.
She also said she wants the players to know where to go without pausing and thinking, a skill that ties back into team unity.
The Wildcats’ coming games may push their team cohesiveness even further as they play three home games in a row tonight, and on Dec. 14 and 15 against Corban College, Chapman University and Northwest Christian University.
“Each of these teams has a very different playing style,” Stewart said. “It will be a good challenge for us.”
Stewart said Corban College has a large team with a good program. Overall, she believes the Wildcats will match up well against them.
Corban comes into the game tonight with a 3-5 record.
The Wildcats will play the Chapman University Panthers on Dec. 14, a team with a 6-3 record.
“Chapman is very different from Corban,” Stewart said. “They are a small and quick team that relies on their penetration and speed. They are always a good challenge for us.”
The Panthers have a slight advantage with their experienced team, Stewart said.
Their roster includes eight sophomores and juniors and six seniors, two of whom were Division III All-Independent selections. However, Stewart said she is confident the Wildcats will be able to handle them.
Linfield‘s Dec. 15 opponent, Northwest Christian University, will come into the game with four wins and six losses.
“They are all good teams,” Forrest said. “It will be a tough weekend, but it will be good for us. No one is looking at us as contenders this season because we’re a young team and a new one, but I think we’re going to surprise people.”
The Wildcats will hit the road after Christmas for the UPS Division III Challenge in Tacoma, Wash., on Dec. 27 and 28.

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