The winter season is approaching along with winter sports, women’s and men’s basketball and indoor track and field.
Women’s basketball expects to build from last season’s improvement to make it to the OAC, Ohio Athletic Conference, where the top six women’s basketball teams in Ohio compete in the conference tournament. Currently, the OAC preseason poll predicts the Comets will come in fourth.
Head coach Camille McPherson said, “I think we all learned a lot from playing against some of those top teams and we’re kind of excited to see if we can take it to that next step and really compete within the conference this year.”
Last season, the roster was relatively new, including the coaches. This season, the 18-player team of returners and newcomers are coached by third-year head coach McPherson, second-year assistant coach Schyler Fennimore and 20-year part-time assistant coach Jason Wright, who is a graduate of the university.
McPherson said, “Everyone’s feeling a little bit more comfortable knowing, having the experience of last year, and we learned a lot from the highs and lows of last year.”
McPherson emphasized the excitement of the team practicing to beat opposition. “We want to play with pace and energy…defensively we want to make sure we’re on the same page and communicating, so we’ll spend a lot of time breaking things down and getting individual reps to make sure everyone understands,” said McPherson. “We’re gonna play with energy intensity on the defensive end and play with pace and share the ball offensively.”
Student support is welcomed—especially at their first home game on Nov. 13—to showcase the practice payoff of the 2023-2024 women’s basketball team.
Men’s basketball also has a goal to improve their consistency to compete in the OAC championship. Currently, the OAC preseason poll predicts the Comets will come in sixth.
Head coach Damon Goodwin said, “If we can play the way we’re capable of, we should be a pretty competitive team this year.”
“We have a team that has played a lot of basketball. We’re still fairly young. We’ve had a couple scrimmages, one I thought we played really well on, one I thought we played poorly,” said Goodwin. He suggests that they have to trust the system they’ve used in previous years to get their players back to the level they once were.
Goodwin has been the men’s basketball head coach for 30 years. Anthony Gholson has been an assistant coach for nine years. Nick Diles has been a part-time assistant coach for three years. Dan Ocke, a 2015 graduate and basketball player at the university, has been a volunteer assistant coach for three years.
Goodwin said, “We’re a work in progress.” This is especially true early in the season as they are figuring out how to rise above the inconsistency of good and bad days.
Goodwin is confident in the potential of the team. Brody Gowen, a sophomore student and men’s basketball player, said, “We are all looking forward to getting started with games.” The team’s first home game is on Nov. 8.
Indoor Track and Field has a goal for their women’s team to keep the Oar, and for the men’s team to get the Oar. “The Oar” is a battle between each sport from the university and Otterbein University, where the winning team gets to keep a wooden oar. Another goal is to make it to the OAC National Championships again this season. This follows last season’s securing of “an OAC Champion[ship], three All-OAC finishes and several program top-10 performances, including a new steeplechase school record.”
BT Pham, third-year head cross country and track and field coach, mainly coaches sprint runners, hurdlers and jumpers. Breanna Clayton, associate head coach of cross country and track and field, coaches the distance runners. De’Von Blackwell, assistant coach of track and field, coaches throwing. Chadd Pierce, assistant track and field coach, focuses on pole vault and high jump.
Catching the first-year students up to the seniors who have set the standards—especially for nationals—is the current focus.
Pham said, “With the freshmen it’s more than getting into the system and training system. A lot of them are younger and underdeveloped from the high school aspect. They didn’t do much of the training we do here, so just kind of introducing some of that stuff, just skills, transfer their natural abilities to actually apply to what we do.”
Additionally, Pham said, “It’s taken us a lot to get to this point, when I first got here was kind of a put together team that was leftover from the previous coaching staff with 16 runners when I first got here. This year, we’re sitting at 60 runners and we’re pretty excited about that.”
Paige Castello, a sophomore student and women’s track and field runner, said, “I think we’re all excited to have a change of pace, literally, as we move into indoor track. There’s a lot of talent in the first-years so it’ll be cool to see them compete. It’s a little intimidating since we travel to such large competitions in other states, but we’re prepared. We put our all into the training so we can definitely perform the same way, if not harder.”
Culturally the team is meshing well through team bonding days, practices (including dress-up days) and companionship, where the team bonds over the struggle of running.
The team is excited for their first home meet on Jan. 13.