The St. Olaf women’s basketball team looked to improve on last season as they tipped-off this week, losing 65-51 in a non-conference matchup at the University of Wisconsin-Stout on Nov. 13. Coming off an overall record of 3-22 and a conference record of 1-17, the team certainly has room for improvement. However, if Coach Dave Stromme can incorporate a talented group of freshmen into an experienced group of upperclassmen, the team will have a chance to compete in more games this year.
After losing no seniors last year, St. Olaf returns with the entirety of its team. Included in this group are the team’s two leading scorers from last season, forward Samantha Tisa ’20 and guard Keegan Mulvihill ’21. Tisa led the team, averaging 9.8 and 5.9 rebounds, while Mulvihill added 7.4 points and led the team with 2.2 assists per game. Additionally, Makenna Ash ’19 returns after missing most of last season studying abroad during the spring semester. In both her freshman and sophomore seasons, Ash received All-MIAC honorable mention. Most recently, in her sophomore campaign, Ash nearly averaged a double-double while scoring 14 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
“After dealing with adversity and injuries, we learned a lot, which has made the team stronger as a whole,” Mulvihill said, expectecting the team to improve from last season.
“Our team is definitely showing up with more intensity and a real commitment to the sport,” Ash said.
The team has worked all off-season to improve both individually and as a group, combining skill-work and strength training. The team has worked with St. Olaf’s new Director of Athletic Performance, Charlie Woida. With a lift program designed by Woida, the team has worked on building “stronger versions of ourselves” according to Ella Skrien ’20.
“Not only has he strengthened us physically, but lifting with him as a team has strengthened our relationship with each other. We attribute so much of our improved mindset to him,” Skrien said. “Charlie sets the bar high for every team he works with, and has easily been one of the best additions to St. Olaf athletics in recent years.”
In addition to the experienced returners, St. Olaf welcomes a group of four first-years. Guards Sydney Beard ’22, Rose Bauernfeind ’22, K’Lynn Lewis ’22 and forward Camryn Scott ’22 all look to contribute this season.
“Each one of the four adds something unique to the team,” Mulvihill said. “They work really hard, want to become better players and are fun to be around.”
“I expect the group to have a big impact in our games early this season,” Ash said.
St. Olaf also added a new assistant coach this offseason. Mariah Monke will help coach alongside Stromme as the season begins. Monke comes to St. Olaf after playing Division I basketball for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“Mariah has already made a huge impact on our defense,” Ash said. “Being so fresh from playing college basketball, there is a lot in her recent memory that she can teach us.”
“Mariah always takes time to make sure we know what we’re doing and lets us know simple ways to improve our games,” Mulvihill said.
During the offseason, St. Olaf made adjustments on both offense and defense that they hope will translate into more wins throughout the season.
“We want to play with more defensive pressure and speed up the game,” Mulvihill said. The adjustments have seemingly worked so far, as the team defeated the University of Dubuque 71-70 in a preseason scrimmage.
St. Olaf opens their season with a run of non conference games played across the border in Wisconsin. They tipped-off in Menomonie, Wisc. on Nov. 13 as they took on UW-Stout.
The team will travel to play in the UW-River Falls tournament on Nov. 16 and 17. In the tournament, St. Olaf will play UW-River Falls and UW-Stout for a second time. The team will then welcome Martin Luther to the Hill on Nov. 20 for their home opener on the Bob Gelle court in Skoglund. Over Thanksgiving break, the team will travel to Colorado for a pair of games against Colorado College and Johnson & Wales University. After this trip, St. Olaf will kick off MIAC play with a trip to St. Paul, Minn. to play Macalester on Dec. 1.
In the preseason conference poll, St. Olaf was projected to finish in 11th place, right behind rivals Carleton and Hamline. Heavy favorite St. Thomas, who went undefeated in conference last season, received all 11 first place votes. St. Thomas is ranked the fourth best team in the nation in a few preseason polls.
Hopefully with an experienced roster, talent first-years and a new coach, St. Olaf can rise above expectations and improve on their last season.