Women’s Basketball Prepares for Life Without Seniors

The women’s basketball team announced the signing of three players for the 2013-2014 season. Mia Hopkins, Jenny Horvatinovic and Christina Mitchell have signed National Letters of Intent to play at MU for the next four seasons.

“I feel that our incoming freshmen will compliment the people that we have right now really well and be a really good unit that will be able to feed off each other,” said Head Coach Jenny Palmateer.

Freshmen guards Kasey Chambers and Jasmine Walker have both also heard about this new class and how they can help this Hawks squad.  “I have heard about Jenny (Horvatinovic), she is a very nice player and will do a lot of the little things and is willing to work hard, so that is very promising,” said Chambers.

“I heard Mia (Hopkins) scored her 1000 point as a junior and averaged around 21 points and 17 rebounds,”  said Walker.

At season’s end, the Hawks will be losing almost half of their team as six seniors on the squad will be graduating.  Because of this, the freshmen this year and incoming freshmen next season are going to have to take on bigger roles.

“It’s a good position to come into because so many of us are leaving and it is a good opportunity for all of them (freshmen) to get time next year as long as they work hard this year. They can definitely fill our shoes next year,” said Betsy Gadziala, starting senior forward the Hawks.

Going into the 2009-2010 season, the opening year of the MAC, eight freshmen girls walked into the gym ready to play some basketball; four years later most of those girls are still together and the best of friends.  With one transfer and the other redshirting freshman year, the blue and white have been together from the beginning, with this year hoping to be the year to win the Northeast Conference title after losing in the championship game two years in a row.

“Everything we’ve been through, the good and the bad, the whole new coaching staff, going through all that together, going through the two losses in the playoffs the last two years I think it all brought us all together and we’re great friends off the court and it helps on the court,” said Gadziala.

“I’ve been relying on them heavily just for the pulse of the team and to get feedback here and there,” said Palmateer. “I have been counting on them very heavily and they are taking in the freshmen and the underclassman under their wing a little bit and just trying to show them the ropes and to keep them encouraged when things aren’t going well.”

This season, the Hawks welcomed four newcomers, Chambers, Walker, Amanda Offenback and Dotson, who have all made impacts in different ways for the team. With Dotson redshirting and Chambers and Walker getting significant playing time early on in the season, these freshmen girls are going to need to take notes from the seniors for next season and the upcoming years. “What they (the seniors) have to say is so valuable that you take in every little bit they say and I’m just like ‘wow that really helps,’” said Chambers.

Chambers expressed how much this graduating class means to her.

“To be a part of this team there is so much leadership qualities. It shows me how to act and how to behave and I really just look up to them,” said Chambers. 

She went on to discuss that while playing with the seniors, she has gotten some great advice to help herself become a better player. “One of the seniors came up to me, clearly when I was having a tough time, and she just said that being a freshman is hard but I’m doing well and to just keep going and keep working hard.  It will come together later and give it time. Knowing that they believe in me is awesome because it gives me so much more confidence.”

Watching this senior class, Walker has taken notes on the way they play and how it can help her succeed. “I would use their philosophy of staying together and use their mindset of approaching everything with intensity and determination,” said Walker. She went on to talk about some advice she has already received from earlier this season.

“Whenever I was struggling, especially in practice, they would just tell me to relax,” Walker said. “I was once told after a game, ‘if you play defense in practice like how you just did in the game, I guarantee it will speak volumes and be noticed.’” 

Palmateer, who is in her second season with the team, has seen how the seniors are the leaders and how they are trying to have the freshmen follow in their footsteps.

“We’ll be really counting on them (freshmen),” said Palmateer. “The good news is I think they’re very capable of being big contributors. It’s like anything else, we’ll see how much they improve over the summer, in the offseason, and even the rest of this season. The good news is they have the seniors to go against every day in practice, so they’re getting better and keep improving. The more game experience they get, the better off they’ll be, so its long season for the freshman but really I think all of them have the potential to be key contributors next season.”

“Just keep working. You never know when your chance is going to come,” said Gadziala to the freshmen.