Women’s basketball looks to capitalize on offseason growth

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Improvement is on the horizon for the Capital University women’s basketball program.

The winter sports season is fast approaching and with it comes a more experienced team. Though the regular season has not started, senior Erin Risner said that the women look “like we know what we’re doing.”

Women’s basketball ended the 2017-18 season with a record of 14-13, but only graduated one senior. This means that the team will have 18 athletes with a year of play under their belts going into the 2018-19 season.

“Our kids are in great shape,” said head coach Dixie Jeffers. “… Physically, mentally, and … the team chemistry is incredible.”

Jeffers also spoke of the leadership of veterans such as Risner as being essential to the team’s development.

The development of the team can be largely attributed to mental growth. Jeffers said that eliminating distractions off the court and recognizing the leadership within the team has led to improvement throughout the offseason.

“If you have good harmony in the locker room, where people aren’t … fighting one another, fighting the leadership, fighting my coaching style, good things happen,” Jeffers said.

Risner talked of the growth of her fellow athletes, namely last year’s first-years growing to fit their roles as sophomores.

“I think last year’s freshman class grew substantially over the summer,” Risner said. “… As athletes, they worked on the court and in the weight room but mentally, they are totally different people. We had a lot of issues with maturity and kind of a lack of respect for … authority … and this year, there’s none of that. There’s definitely a complete understanding of where everyone sits.”

Photo: Erin Risner

Individual growth will lead to growth as a whole, and the team has already proven this.

“You measure a season by progression,” Jeffers said of determining growth on a large scale. She cites an example from last season in which growth was obvious against an infamously tough opponent. Jeffers recalls a contest in December of 2017 in which Capital suffered a substantial loss at Ohio Northern University, finding themselves on the short end of a 64-38 final score.

Later that same season, Capital not only won the second meeting between the two teams, but handily beat a nationally-ranked Lady Polar Bears team by a final score of 84-76.

“There is how you look at your progression,” said Jeffers.

Growth will be needed if Capital is to perform as expected. According to the latest polls, the Lady Crusaders are predicted second in the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC), with Baldwin-Wallace University supposedly on top. Successful or not, both Jeffers and Risner agree that Capital can become a team that is constantly in the sights of other OAC programs.

“You don’t know what some of the schools have yet because you haven’t been able to view them on film,” said Jeffers regarding the strength of in-conference competition. “All we know is, because we’re from Capital, we have a target on our back all the time.”

“[It] can be a burden sometimes, but it’s fun. It makes it interesting. Even in past years when we weren’t having the best season, people were still out to get us … on and off the court, it has taught everyone that you have to compete no matter what,” Risner said.

There may be a certain validity to this grudge of sorts that many of the other OAC teams hold against Capital. With a clear game plan, a high percentage of returning athletes, and a head coach with over 700 wins at the position, they are  a team to be taken seriously.

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