Freshly hatched, the spring chickens of Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) are preparing to spread their wings. After suffering the loss of a strong cast of graduates, including former SCIAC player of the year Madison Quan CG ’23, P-P women’s basketball is entering a rebuilding period quite unusual for Division III sports.
The Sagehens enter this season with essentially a fully new team. The team is composed of mainly underclassmen with five freshmen, six sophomores and only one upperclassman, a super senior. This year, they will focus on learning and forming a cohesive game while embracing their strengths.
Last year, the team was composed mainly of first-years — now sophomores — and seniors, creating a large gap in experience for the team. One of these sophomores, Katie Drais PO ’26, spoke on quickly having to take on a leadership role.
“I was just soaking up everything I could,” Drais said. “I didn’t realize how much [the seniors] taught me and how much they did for the team until this year when a lot of them were gone.”
Kellie Au PO ’26 noted, however, that the social aspect of the team of last year was a bit of a struggle.
“Last season was tough,” Au stated. “There was a big gap between all of us. It was definitely a big learning moment.”
With the loss of all but one upperclassman, head coach Alaina Woo explained the team’s composition will be very different this season.
“We have five new first years who I’m really excited about. It feels like a brand new team,” Woo said.
Au noted that the closeness in age between teammates has created a uniquely positive team culture.
“It’s definitely really chill. It’s a very fun and lively team,” Au said. “It’s a fun vibe since we’re all kind of the same age.”
Woo discussed how she believes expectations of team success will affect the Sagehens.
“It’s just exciting,” Woo said. “There’s no expectations for a young team except to work hard and get better every day.”
The team also employs a mindset of being present in every moment. Woo believes this to be vital for the success of the team, asking them to focus on one game at a time.
“I think my primary goal for this year is to encourage them to stay present and encourage them to win each moment and give themselves the chance and the opportunity to have every moment feel new,” Woo said.
This advice from the coaching staff is especially important for a younger team. According to Au, in the absence of a strong upperclassmen presence, the team relies on other sources of leadership.
“We ask a lot of questions,” Au said. “The coaches know we’re young so they’re more of that leadership answering our questions.”
With the youth on their side, they have to focus on learning in practice. At the beginning of the season, a change in NCAA rules gifted the team eight extra practices, giving them more time to start the learning process for freshmen and improve cohesion.
“It allowed us to do a lot more teaching than we are typically able to do because there’s more time for the team to digest the information,” Woo said. “We teach offense, defense and everything in between.”
The energy of the team — or ‘henergy,’ as the team refers to it — is something that Drais pointed out as one of their strengths as a team. Drais noted the team is able to learn and adapt to new situations because of this energy.
“Sometimes if we do a drill in practice it will be [a player’s] first time ever doing it, learning quickly and bouncing back if we get down,” Drais said. “We call it ‘henergy.’”
Drais believes the team will rely on their trust in one another to overcome the lack of experience.
“We might not be the best team in terms of game experience,” Drais said. “We do know that we can really count on each other and I think there’s a lot of trust this year in one another.”
P-P women’s basketball will open their season in Chicago as part of the Midway Classic tournament, where they’ll play the hosts, the University of Chicago, on Nov. 11, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior on Nov. 12.