The wait is almost over. Women's basketball season is right around the corner. With exhibition games and practices on the way, the Michigan State women's basketball team is preparing to improve off of last season with new coaches and players.
This year, the Spartan community has hope for a new era of women's basketball here at MSU. This will be the Spartans' first year since 2007 without head coach Suzy Merchant, who stepped down last March due to health reasons. New head coach Robyn Fralick, who was introduced to the team in late March, hopes to write a good story while here at MSU and start her tenure off strong.
"Some things that have stood out about this particular team so far is their work ethic and the team's pursuit together, so we're really excited," Fralick said. "We’re figuring out this particular team's identity and developing it into a really, really good story. It is wonderful to be home."
Fralick has been a college basketball head coach for eight years and owns a career 192-76 win/loss record. She comes to MSU a year after directing the Bowling Green Falcons for five seasons, displaying a 88-73 win/loss ratio, a MAC championship, and multiple WNIT tournament berths. Before Bowling Green, she spent three seasons at Ashland University, guiding the Eagles to an impressive 104-3 record in three seasons while also winning the Division 2 national championship.
However, Fralick isn't the only person coming from Bowling Green to join the Spartans this season. Transfer junior guard Jocelyn Tate followed her coach to East Lansing to make an impact for the green and white.
"I didn't really know if being coached by somebody else is what I wanted," Tate said. "I really thought I was lucky with the ones that I had. I wouldn't want to miss this opportunity to continue to be coached by them because of how great they are."
Tate, who averaged 10.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.7 steals her sophomore season at Bowling Green, said she's "really excited to play with this group."
Last year, MSU finished with an overall record of 16-14 and a 7-10 record in Big Ten play. They were placed as the nine seed in the Big Ten tournament, where they defeated the eight-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers 67-64. They were then bounced in the second round, losing to top-seeded Indiana 94-85.
This year, however, with eight returning players, they hope to increase their winning percentage and make a surprise in the Big Ten. Junior guard DeeDee Hagemann said one way to make that surprise is to play as a team.
"We've been putting in a lot of work this offseason, and we know at the end of the day, we just want to be consistent and win," Hagemann said. "Everybody's going to do what it takes to win."
Hagemann averaged 9.3 points, 4.9 assists and two steals during her sophomore season. She said she wants to increase those numbers by continuing to work on her jump shots and moves off the ball.
Earlier this month, the team announced that Julia Ayrault and Moira Joiner would be the Spartans' team captains for the 2023-24 season. Both Ayrault and Joiner are redshirt seniors and are the first captains the MSU women's basketball has had since the 2019-20 season. Ayrault said she sees being a captain as a huge honor.
"I’m just really grateful to have this opportunity, and I look forward to being a vocal leader, an emotional leader and encouraging everybody," Ayrault said. "I think this role has already really enhanced my leadership skills and helped me to improve by using my voice more."
Joiner agreed with her, saying she’s honored to fit this role her team selected her for. Though, Joiner has always seen herself as fitting this exact role.
"I've always kind of seen myself as a leader on this team, maybe like more of a background leader, but still a leader," Joiner said. "It's not a role that I’m not used to. I was a captain in high school for three years. I think being more vocal and stepping into that is something that I look forward to doing."
With teams like Iowa, Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland and Illinois all being ranked in the women's top 25, Big Ten women's basketball is undoubtedly one of the best conferences in the sport. Fralick knows it’ll be a “challenge night in and night out” but knows her team can handle the competition.
"We're developing who we are at our best," Fralick said. "We're fast, we're aggressive. We attack, whether that's getting to the free throw line or putting pressure on the defense. We must win the turnover battle and convert that into points. At our best, we will be tough, together and connected."
Michigan State hosts their first live-action exhibition game vs Davenport on November 2nd at 6:30 p.m. Following that game, on November 8th in Breslin, they tip off the regular season vs Oakland, a team the Spartans beat 85-39 last year.
Big Ten action won't start back up for another month, as the Spartans will have to wait until December 9th to take on Nebraska at home.
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