The Portland women’s basketball team walked away from the 2015-16 season having only won four games. Spirits were low as disappointment set in. But, this year, the team seems to have a new mindset. They want to wipe the slate clean and step onto the court as a new team.
“We have a little bit of work to be done to prove ourselves,” senior guard Hannah Mattson said. “We want to make a name for ourselves and after last year’s results (which) were not what we wanted or what we hoped for. Now we have the idea of making a name for ourselves and we have nothing to lose really.”
The team brought their newfound attitude to the Chiles Center on Wednesday, beating Willamette University 81-49 in Portland’s first exhibition game. But when conference play comes, the Pilots will probably not have as easy of a time as they did against a mid-level Division II team like Willamette.
Their West Coast Conference schedule will be tough, but head coach Cheryl Sorenson says her team is already showing they’re ready to compete. She senses this year will be different.
“It is different in the sense that we have the entire team back from last year, we graduated one senior,” Sorenson said. “So they have a sense of confidence knowing that it was a rough year last year for a number of reasons and we've made a few tweaks to what we are doing on both sides of the ball.”
Not only is the team older and more experienced this year, but the team is implementing specific changes to their style of play.
Sorenson and the entire coaching staff have placed an emphasis on building habits in three main areas: defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball.
“We've pretty much done the same thing in practice every single day...it is just because they have to learn how to do it the right way and at game speed,” Sorenson said. “And they have to be able to do it without thinking and they have to be able to do it over and over and over again without making mistakes. The only way to do that is by creating those habits.”
Not only does the team want to build a foundation of solid skills, they have also made changes to their style of defensive and offensive play.
“We have an offense this year that complements the skills of every player, much more than we had last year,” sophomore Julie Spencer said.
The team is changing up their motion on offense and tweaking their strategy to match each player’s specific strengths.
“We are coming in this year with a lot more confidence than last year,” Spencer said. “That is in part because our coaches have changed things with how we are going to play, our type of play and so they have instilled that confidence in us.”
With their newfound confidence, they have also worked on making changes to their defense. Of the shots other teams take, the Pilots only want to allow them to make 30 percent of them.
Because they have nothing to lose, the team is setting expectations for themselves. They want to meet these expectations as a more mature and confident group of athletes.
“I am not sure how it is going to look on Nov. 1, Nov 5. or Nov. 11, but our goal is by Dec. 29, our first league game, that we have really established our philosophy, we have established how we want to play on the floor,” Sorenson said. “We want our opponents to know that Portland is known for this and that they can fill in those blanks.”
The team is coming into this season as an underdog. With nothing to lose, they hope to make a real name for themselves.
The Pilots play their next exhibition game at the Chiles Center on Saturday against Warner Pacific at 5 p.m.