Although they earned a decisive first win over Pacific Lutheran, beating out the Lutes by 22 points, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s basketball team proceeded to lose its next two games against Puget Sound and Pacific.
Team captain and starting point guard Madison Quan PZ ’22 said P-P’s defeat against Puget Sound felt like a wake-up call.
“It wasn’t that [Puget Sound] was better than us or that we didn’t play well,” Quan said. “A lot of factors went into it, and I think it needed to happen early on in the season to set us straight. I think it was a learning lesson for us because we’re never gonna let that happen again.”
Budding star forward Kayla Hankins PO ’24 had a more positive outlook on the results of the exhibition matches.
“Being our first debuts, I think that we showed a lot of good things, of course, but we have aspects of our game to improve on,” she said. “I feel like it’s [showing] that there’s only better things to come.”
One potential factor behind the Sagehens’ slow start is their rough practice situation. In addition to hosting team workouts via Zoom over the summer, the women can only practice outdoors due to the construction of Pomona College’s new center for athletics and recreation throughout this fall semester.
Hankins, who is in her first collegiate season, faced additional challenges while adjusting to the transition from high school.
“In college, I feel like you already have certain expectations in terms of maturity level [because you’ve been] playing for so long,” she said. “It’s just time to be accountable for yourself for your actions while working hard to be able to help the team.”
Head coach Alaina Woo also said the readjustment to collegiate play hasn’t been easy.
“Our greatest challenge is just relearning how to play at full speed and playing with each other,” Woo said. “We must be committed to working through that since every program in the country is probably facing that in some capacity this year.”
Despite these setbacks, the Sagehens are amped up to return playing at full throttle this season.
“We’re looking forward because last year was incredibly hurtful to all of us,” Quan said. “The adjustments we’ve taken [in returning to campus] have been really good, and I think all of us are really fired up for the season.”
This renewed energy, according to the senior point guard, has taken shape in the form of leadership from more veteran players.
“I’m not always the loudest person in the room but I love to communicate with people in effective ways,” Quan said. “So whether that’s active listening or using ‘I’ statements, I want to make sure everyone is heard and teach how to communicate on the court.”
Additional duties for the captain include integrating the first- and second-year players on the Sagehen roster.
“As a senior I’m trying my hardest to help them adapt to how the program is and what it’s about, teaching them our team goals, values and principles to get them on the same page,” Quan said. “My job as captain is to relay the information from the coaches to the players and solidify our good team camaraderie.”
Hankins said the Sagehens are looking to improve on cohesion while playing with each other on the floor.
“Even though I think we have great chemistry, we need to continue to learn how to play with each other,” she said. “I think implementing our good chemistry through action is something we need to work towards, because it’s always an aspect of the game that can get better [as the year progresses].”
But the team is already showing signs of making these adjustments, Quan added.
“If someone does something wrong, we always call each other out, and I think the best thing about our team is we never take things personal,” Quan said. “ We always emphasize how ‘what is said on the court stays on the court.’”
Considering the team’s strengths on the court, the Sagehens prioritize dialing in on the defensive side of the ball, which includes being unselfish and having each player know their role well.
“We have a bunch of players on our roster that are defensive players first, but also none of us are selfish,” Quan said. “I’d also say that no one steps on each other’s toes, and as that system is put together and everyone is doing the right thing, then our whole team comes together.”
On the other side of the floor, Hankins mentioned the wide range of the team’s offensive potential.
“We have anything you could think of: shooters, slashers, bigs and smalls,” Hankins said. “We have a wide variety of different skill sets that mesh all together. We have so many threats on the floor that could be very hard to guard when we can pull anything out of the hat.”
Looking forward to making deep runs in the SCIAC and NCAA postseasons similar to seasons past, Woo said her players will need to stay patient and disciplined throughout the season.
“Our mentality is to get better everyday, one possession at a time,” Woo said. “Our players are ready to communicate with each other and have a commitment to improving every single day that they step on the floor.”
Seeking to bounce back from their two consecutive losses, the Sagehens will next face George Fox on Sunday, Nov. 21.