When College senior and women’s basketball co-captain Olivia Canning watched her teammate, College junior and point guard Cheyenne Arthur, nail a few three-pointers in last Saturday’s game against Alma College, she got the feeling that the young team was headed toward another successful season.
The Yeowomen, who opened their 2018–2019 season Nov. 10 with a 59–45 win, are approaching the season with both steady optimism and caution. The team is aiming to repeat last year’s NCAC championship, which it took home for the first time in program history, but must confront the challenging experience disparity faced by this year’s younger squad.
Teams thrive on consistency; between the 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 championship season, the Yeowomen returned all five of their starters.
“We were really used to playing with each other last year,” Canning said. “The captains, Ty [Parlor, OC ’18] and Abby [Andrews, OC ’18], had been captains for two straight years, and the starters were relatively the same.”
The regularity and dependability of the core of last year’s team brought them a stable season from start to finish. The Yeowomen only lost to two teams in conference play and delivered a concrete defeat to the Wittenberg University Tigers to take home the trophy. But this year, the starting five aren’t set in stone.
“There’s definitely a variation in levels of experience,” said Canning, noting the difference in the mindset of the team this year. “We’re definitely a lot more [motivated] this season.”
But Canning also noted the rapid growth already demonstrated by her younger teammates.
“The junior class, the largest class on the team, is really stepping up,” Canning said. “They’ve already grown so much as players and will continue to throughout the season.”
Arthur agrees, saying that the team’s juniors are ready to step into newfound leadership roles.
“It’s definitely a different feel in terms of responsibility and accountability, but I think it’s something that the upperclassmen are prepared for,” said Arthur. “We knew coming into the season that we would be inexperienced, but I believe our senior and junior classes are handling it well in terms of leadership. We have had an increase in team effort to go over plays and our defense and game plan in and out — not only for games but for day-to-day practices as well.”
Practices began for the Yeowomen Monday, Oct. 15, and in the days since then, they’ve been working hard to polish their skills and rethink the identity of the team.
“The first week or two of practice were just fundamentals, to make sure everyone knows what the standard is,” said College senior and co-captain Alex Stipano, who noted that building skills is just like taking a class — if you don’t follow along early on, you might get left behind.
“We’ve leveled up the intensity this year — it’s always been high, but [the intensity] is especially present this year, because we know what we’re capable of,” Stipano said.
Canning and Stipano, the only two seniors on the team, have had their senior season in the back of their minds since their first year on the court.
“We’re experiencing a big leadership shift, because Ty and Abby were captains for two years,” Canning said. “It’s nerve-wracking but exciting. Since [first] year, Alex and I kinda knew that senior year would be our time.”
Stipano is equally as motivated to succeed in her last season as a Yeowoman.
“Liv and I do have to take on this new captain role that we haven’t had before, but we’re using it to try and mold a new team,” she said.
“With Alex and Liv as captains, I know that the team is in good hands,” she said. “Throughout both of their careers they’ve had a large impact on the team’s success. When you have people like that as captains — people who know leadership — you know without a doubt that you can put all your trust into them to lead us in the right direction. In addition to having them as resources on the basketball court, it’s also extremely helpful to know that they’re there for you off the court as well.”
Both Canning and Stipano see a conference repeat in their future, but their primary goal for the season is to beat the DePauw University Tigers for the first time in program history. The Yeowomen lost to DePauw in conference play last season but did not have to face them to reach the championship, as the Tigers lost to the other Tigers of Wittenberg University in a semi-final upset.
“I see us going all the way again,” Canning said, “but beating DePauw is the history I really want our team to make this season.”
Stipano feels similarly motivated.
“Since we didn’t have to play them last year, some people might’ve thought it was a fluke that we made it as far as we did,” she said. “Beating DePauw is in our capabilities, and I want to prove that.”