Women's basketball feels confident for upcoming season
Monday afternoon marked the first day of practice for the women’s basketball team one month before they kickoff the season against Lake Superior State on Nov 5.
Even though team play does not start for another month, players are excited to get back onto the court. For senior forward Taya Reimer, she feels the team has really bonded to work well together.
“When you don’t have games it's a little scary,” Reimer said. “You don’t know how it’s going to go, but we had a really good summer and a really good preseason. We’ve established really good chemistry and just had a lot of fun.”
Last season, the team went 21-12 overall and 9-7 in the conference. The team was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a loss from Arizona State.
For head coach Suzy Merchant, she feels that her team has really been working on their health for this upcoming season.
“To be honest, I don’t think we were in as good condition as we could of been last year,” Merchant said. “I think ours kids have done a really great job of making sure they take care of their bodies, fuel them the right way and certainly doing what they need to do.”
Another big focus for the team this season is being more defensive.
Merchant feels that in the past couple season that she has not been focused on that. This season will turn things around.
“We’re definitely going to be a little bit different defensively,” Merchant said. “I've usually been a little bit more aggressive on the defense side, but the last couple of years just because I haven’t been as deep or as athletic as I need to be in certain positions.”
Jankoska averaged 16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per in her 131 appearances on the court. She became the first Spartan to reach 2,000 points and ended her career with 2,212 points in total.
“I think Tori was amazing and she did so many things so well and she played with a heart of a champion as you know, a great leader,” Merchant said. “That’s a big lost.”
With Jankoska gone, Merchant feels the team will still be okay with her absence.
“I feel like our team has a different feel to it, but it’s a good kind of feel,” Merchant said. “What we may be missing in one dominant kid, we kind of transition to other players.”
This season, the team welcomes two new freshmen Sidney Cooks and Claire Hendrickson. Before starting at MSU this fall, Cooks played in the 2017 McDonald’s All-America Game at the United Center in Chicago back in March.
One thing that Merchant feels that people should know about Cooks is that she's a communicator.
“The thing that people probably don’t know about her is her personality and her ability to communicate,” Merchant said. “I think if you can do that as a freshman early on and you're competitive like she is, you’ll have a lot of success.”
This season, the Spartans will have five seniors to help step up and bring some guidance to the current team.
For Reimer, she feels that being more vocal will help bring up more of her leadership qualities along with two other fellow seniors guard Lexi Gussert and center Jenna Allen.
“I think just using my experience and continuing to lead by example, but also being more vocal,” Reimer said. “That is something that we didn’t always have last year especially with Tori gone now, she has kinda been looking for me, Lexi (Gussert), and Jenna (Allen) to be the vocal leaders on our team.”
Last season, Reimer played in all 33 games in her first season as a Spartan after transferring from Notre Dame. She was named to the Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Team and finished with an average of 9.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. She lead the team is the most blocks and the most offensive rebounds with a total of 57.
Merchant feels that Reimer played strong towards the end of the season and has goals for not just herself, but for the team.
“I think Taya was a little disappointed in her season last year overall,” Merchant said. “She came on stronger at the end of the year. Some of that was she hasn’t played for a year and a half basically, so just getting her into playing shape. I think she is really driven. She has some personal goals and team goals.”
For Reimer she feels that the team can focus on three main things to help make this team better with tough games starting off the season. The first Big Ten team they will face will be against Indiana Dec. 28 in Bloomington.
“Especially this year we have a lot of really big games early, so I think focusing on getting better every single day and coach has really kind of nailed it in our brains that we’re going to try and establish a new culture and get back to being a defensive team,” Reimer said. “I just think working on that every single day, being aggressive, and just have energy and building our chemistry more and more.”