The University of Portland women’s basketball team is coming into their season with some old faces and new changes.
The team is entering its fifth year under head coach Cheryl Sorenson. The past few seasons have not gone the way the team has hoped, as Portland has finished with less than 10 wins in each of the last five seasons.
The 2018-19 season, however, brings a clean slate and a chance for Portland to change the tone. It will be an uphill battle in a conference that has six teams coming off of overall winning records last year. The Pilots were slotted for 10th in the coaches WCC preseason poll.
Last year, the team amounted to a record of 7-23, and only three of the seven wins were against WCC opponents. Struggles largely came away from their home floor, as the team finished 0-12 on the road.
Freshman point guard Haylee Andrews has been a factor in both of the wins, scoring 19 points against Utah Valley before pouring in 23 against Weber State two nights later. Seniors Darian Slaga, guard, and Julie Spencer, forward, have also been large contributors in both scoring and rebounding.
There are some bright spots for the Pilots. Many of the players who will most likely be playing significant minutes have played together before. Players like Slaga, Spencer and junior guard Kate Andersen have now spent two seasons playing alongside each other.
“We have a large returning group of players from last year's team,” head coach Sorenson said. “They understand each other’s strengths and how to play off of them.”
The Pilots will also have some new faces on the sidelines this season as two new coaches joined the staff, one of which has been close to the program for the last three years.
Assistant coach Tiffany Gibson spent the last three seasons as director of basketball operations for the women’s basketball team. This season she has the responsibility of getting the Pilots defense ready for the season ahead.
The other new face on the Pilot bench is assistant coach Skyler Young. Young brings with him 19 years of experience, most recently with Weber State.
“He is really good,” freshman Andrews said. “He says it how it is and how it should be as well as what our expectations should be.”
Along with these new coaches comes a new fast-paced offense where the goal is to find the open shooter. This new style make the Pilots tough to plan for.
“A lot of teams set up their offense and we don’t have a lot of set plays,” junior Andersen said. “It’s hard to defend and scout.”
This new offense could prove to be helpful for the Pilots. The first look at the offense came against in the team’s exhibition against the Puget Sound Loggers, in which the team scored 88 points, leading the Pilots to a commanding victory.
The overarching theme of the program this season is to work hard and trust the process. They believe the hard work and preparation will take the team where they want to go.
“Our team goals are to trust the process and control the controllable,” Sorenson said. “If we do that, the results will follow.”
This theme has flooded into practice as the team has been hustling and working hard everyday to make sure that those little things do take care of themselves.
“We are practicing to out work any team we play,” Andersen said.
Limiting mistakes and finding good shots are two things the Pilots will need to find success this season.
There is plenty of talent on the roster this year as seniors Slaga and Spencer will both most likely move past the 1,000-point mark for their careers. Maddie Mulheim, a sophomore guard, had a big season from behind the three-point line last year making 48 three point shots, while making just over 30% of her attempts from three. Mulheim will be looking to replicate her success this season. Sophomore guard Josie Matz also comes off the bench with play making ability.
The Pilots also added four new freshman on the team, a guard and three forwards. The freshman who will most likely make an immediate difference on the court is Andrews, who is a long way from home of Townsville, Australia.
Even though she is a freshman, Andrews brings a good amount of high competition-level experience. Andrews won gold with her team at the Division 2 Australian Championships while averaging 30 points per game in the tournament. When Andrews decided to sign a National Letter of Intent to play for the Pilots, she was a developmental player for the Townsville Fire of the WNBL, the Australian equivalent to the WNBA.
The Pilots women’s basketball team has a blank slate ahead of them this season. So far this season, the Pilots have already surpassed their road win total from last season. Portland opened up the year with two road games and beat Utah Valley 65-60 and Weber State 89-73. They also went 1-1 at the Bank of Hawaii Classic this past weekend, beating Hawaii 72-65 but losing to Arizona 92-70.
The work in the off season has been put in and now it is time for the team to put it to the test in the 2018-19 season.
Jamison White is a sports reporter at The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.