The Cornell’s women’s basketball team left off last season with a 16-11 record and a fourth-place tie in the Ivy League standings. After losing many of its top players to graduation, the group is working on unity this season, with the goal of taking that next step as its key focus.
The Red upped its game last season in utilizing its star players on a very talented team. The team found its rhythm, and the fresh faces are determined to keep that momentum rolling in the 2017-18 season.
Hoping to start off on the right foot, head coach Dayna Smith is excited to see how the Red opens up against a solid Loyola team this Friday.
“[Loyola is] a veteran team, with a phenomenal point guard who is also their leading scorer,” she said. “They’re an up-tempo team. We will need to be ready for them to put pressure on us as well as run the ball on offense. Right now, we’re more focused on us as a team than on Loyola.”
The Red’s last game against Loyola came almost exactly one year ago, when Cornell came away with a 58-50 victory.
As this season’s team looks to get things started, Smith reflected on the differences between last season’s team versus this season’s.
“We are not going to be able to replace who [last year’s seniors] were,” she said. “We need this team to create its own identity. I love that they are hungry for the new opportunity, but we are going to be a very different team than what we have been in the last couple of years. We are going to have different leadership and different scoring.”
With a very busy offseason and the loss of five key seniors, the Red will have to work on team chemistry as the newest players adjust to Cornell basketball. Eleven out of the 15 players on the current roster are underclassmen.
“The team has worked very hard the past month every single day at practice,” said sophomore forward Reena Olsen. “With a relatively young team and having lost our five starters from last year, coach Smith has challenged us each to find our individual roles for what we can bring to the team.”
Smith has high expectations for the season, but she remains focused on this weekend. There is currently no set starting lineup for the matchup with the Greyhounds, but Smith said she is planning on breaking up playing time evenly for all new players in hopes of finding a group of five that can work together effectively and eventually fill the starting roles.
As the Red pushed through the pre-season, it found itself constantly repeating one word, “together.” This has become the team motto as the group looks to have more unity this season, with efforts from each and every member.
“This season we have been saying ‘together’ in huddles,” said sophomore guard Caroline Shelquist. “We are a very close team on and off the court, so using that on the court is a huge advantage, especially when things aren’t going our way.”
To strengthen their relationships off the court, the team likes to hang out in-between classes, get team dinners and study together at the library. They are an inseparable bunch and are hoping those relationships pay dividends on the court.
“We are very excited to kick off the season,” Olsen said. “We have been studying matchups and scouting reports in preparation, so we feel prepared to take them on.”
Tipoff is set for Friday at noon in Baltimore.