Dec. 08, 2014

Jonathan Toman
jtoman@uccs.edu

The women’s basketball team has started the season 5-1, and will look to continue that early season momentum into conference play and break.

The Mountain Lions, ranked eighteenth in the Dec. 2 Division II National Media Poll, will face conference opponents Fort Lewis and Adams State Dec. 5-6 before hosting Metro State and Regis on Dec. 12 and 13.

After that stretch, the team has seven games in between the fall and spring semesters.

“We have to bring our own energy and feed off each other,” said head coach Shawn Nelson.“We have to stick with what we’ve been doing, get better each day.”

Senior Abby Kirchoff knows the section of games over break presents a different challenge than during the semester.

“It’s different, we have more time,” she said. “We can shoot in our free time, and it’s nice, because we don’t have to worry about both. We can just focus on basketball.”

“We have to keep learning consistency,” added sophomore Brittany Hernandez. “Good teams keep the intensity all year.”

Kirchoff has also seen a change in the leadership style between last year’s coach Corey Laster and Nelson, considering Nelson a calmer and more easygoing coach.

“He’s not a yeller, and I think we work better with that,” she said.

Nelson knows he inherited skilled players, but that the team element may have been lacking last year.

“They fit perfectly into what I used to do at Carroll [College, Nelson’s previous coaching role],” he said. “They needed a little push on how to play hard, break things down. But at the same time, good players have to play.”

One main challenge may be the lack of student support during the games over break, with many students home for the holidays.

“Being women’s basketball players, we don’t get a lot of fans in general,” said Kirchoff. “So we don’t need fans in the first place. But obviously it’s nice, we like to have fans.”

Hernandez explained that it is easier to focus over break, and that the players encourage each other well anyway.

“It’s not going to be much of an issue,” she said.

Many of the earlier games, including a matchup against Point Loma in front of 1,200 fans, were against regional opponents. Nelson highlighted positive results against regional teams as critical moving in to the postseason.

“That really gave us a chance, we’ve been in every situation,” Nelson said. “We can now keep all that stuff together, and when we’re in that situation again, it’s nothing new and we can handle it.”

Nelson explained that there has been buy-in from the team when it comes to his style and method of play, highlighted by midgame adjustments that were executed, resulting in wins.

“The players went out and did it, that’s really big for us,” he said.

Hernandez has seen that buy-in through the competition in every practice, explaining that as a player you “earn everything you get.”

One of the games over break is the Downtown Classic, where the team will take on Western State in the Colorado Springs Auditorium on Jan. 9.

Nelson, in his first season, explained he is not looking too far down the schedule, but that he has heard good things about the game.

“Anytime you get to play in a bigger environment, it’s a fun experience,” he said. “We can reach some different people in the community, and we will come to them instead of them coming to us.”

The Mountain Lions host Metro State on Dec. 12 and Regis on Dec. 13 in the Gallogly Events Center. Tip-off for both games is 5:30 p.m.