Women’s basketball team enters season with increased defensive focus

Nov. 9, 2015

Jonathan Toman
[email protected]

Defense. That’s the buzz word for the women’s basketball team this year.

Head coach Shawn Nelson is optimistic about his team, and the Mountain Lions will have a new focus for the season. It’s that defense, which gave up an average of 68 points per game last year.

“We’re going to try to be a lot better defensively than we were last year and still put up a bunch of points,” Nelson said.

The leading scorer from last season, Abby Kirchoff, graduated. According to Nelson and senior guard Gabby Ramirez, that means the responsibility of scoring will be more distributed through the team.

“Last year, Abby (Kirchoff) scored a lot of points, but so did Brittany (Hernandez) and Brittany’s back and so did Tori (Fisher) and Tori’s back, Gabby can score, she’s back,” Nelson said.

“We have plenty of people that are back that can score,” he added. “The scoring’s going to come from a lot of different people.”

Ramirez said the team has to depend on everyone now, not just one player.

“We have to rely on everyone getting buckets, being confident and shooting,” Ramirez said.

That balance not only translates to scoring, but also to the team philosophy, and that means the improved defense will be key, Nelson said.

“We have to be more balanced,” he said. “There’s going to be nights where we don’t shoot well or play well offensively, and that’s why our defense has to be a lot better than it was.”

Ramirez has seen this focus transfer toward the amount of time spent working on defense.

“Last year we had a good record but our defense was terrible,” Ramirez said. “You know the offense is going to come but defense is what we’re mostly focused on. Scoring will come with the defense.”

The Mountain Lions finished last year 26-7, including 12-1 at home in the Gallogly Events Center.

“I thought we played in front of great fans last year,” Nelson said. “Nobody ever really has a home court advantage unless your fans are into it.”

He also thinks that record should’ve been 13-0, part of his motivation to improve the defense. The lone defeat came in a 92-89 loss to Regis.

“(That was) too many points to give up at home,” he said.

The Mountain Lions open with six straight home games to begin the season. Most of them are in-region games, the results of which Nelson said helped them in the postseason last year.

“People that don’t believe that your non-conference schedule is important, they’re crazy because that’s how you end up getting to the national tournament,” he said.

The experience of making the last 16 of the national tournament last year is motivation for this season, Ramirez said.

“I think we got a taste of it last year, so I feel like we’re more hungry now,” she said.

“I feel like we’re ready, I think we’re ready for anything.”