Rebuilding basketball: Despite losses, optimism remains

Sports columnist DENISE SEYFER

One year ago, there was no basketball team at Mount Mary University, much to students’ dismay. Speculation swirled in the minds of students and staff on campus if there would be a team courted this year.

Everyone can breathe a little easier. The season is in full swing, but more game preparation and practice are needed. The Angels have to work on key areas such as scoring more points “in the paint,” getting the rebound after the second and third attempts as well as communicating more on the court if they are to be competitive.

On Nov. 16, Mount Mary’s Blue Angels women’s basketball team took to the court for its season-opener before a crowd of approximately 65 fans cheering in the stands of the Bloechl Center.

Weeks before game day, athletic director and coach Marc Heidorf expressed thankfulness that enough women were willing to commit to being on the team. After the game, which resulted in a 77-64 loss to Moody Bible Institute, Heidorf raised his expectations.

“This game is a jumping-off point for us,” Heidorf said. “The end of the first half told us a lot about who we are as a team. The other team has had their coach for four years. We’ve had four weeks. I am incredibly proud of them.”

About a third of the Blue Angels points were derived from freethrows, 21-35 compared with Moody Bible’s 8-19.

“We are winning with shots at the free-throw line,” said newly hired assistant coach Phil Van Erman. “We were only down by six [at halftime].”

Blue Angels freshman forward Taylor Baumgart is one to watch this season. She shot 17 points, seven of which came from freethrows in her first game. In the second game against Wisconsin Lutheran she  totaled 4-7 field goals.

Emily Barker, senior point guard, blasted past defenders as she repeatedly pressed down court. She led in scoring 19 points for the Blue Angels in their first game. Her defensive efforts continue to be impressive. In their game against Lawrence University on Friday, Nov. 22, Barker totaled five defensive rebounds and three offensive rebounds, though the  Blue Angels still lost, 78-44.

In the coming games, fans will continue to hear Coach Heidorf shouting “hands up” from the sidelines.

“It’s a defensive strategy to make them throw over the defense,” Heidorf said. “It gives us more time to get into position. As they [the offensive] come at us, we want to make them think more. Anytime we can make them think more is a benefit to us.”

High hopes still abound for senior center Ashley Leverenz, who struggled under the basket, scoring only three shots out of 13 attempts  in the season opener. In her second game, she went 4-9 in field goals made. Leverenz can be one to rely on at the free-throw line. She shot 8-9 against Lawrence University.

Fans need to remember and give Leverenz a break; up until recently she had been playing soccer. In the game against Moody Bible, she rose up  against girls who were 6 feet 2 inches tall and 6 feet 3 inches tall, which isn’t typical in our league.

Even though the team’s record is 0-3, there is much more work to be done and games to be played. Fans are remaining positive.

“It’s their first games,” said Melody Dixon, the mother of sophomore guard Marti Dixon. “There’s things they will pick up on the way and get better and better.”

MMU basketball 2013

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