First-year players Grace Goodhart and Dakota Vann are finding their place on the court for Loyola women’s basketball team. The dynamic duo have been a dominant force behind the arc this season for the Ramblers. They lead the team in three-pointers with a cumulative 52 made.
Head coach Sheryl Swoopes recruited Goodhart for her talent as a sharpshooter. During her junior campaign at Sunnyvale High School in Texas, Goodhart received the most valuable player accolade for the Texas 3A State Championship game. In high school, she averaged 17.1 points, six rebounds and 3.5 steals per game. She also acquired numerous All-State and All-Regional honors.
The Texan said she has adjusted to the cold Chicago weather and transitioned to the new collegiate terrain smoothly. So far, she has averaged .347 percent for three-point shots and .938 percent at the free throw line.
Goodhart played a key role in the Ramblers’ first win over the Panthers on Jan. 29. Her late three-pointer put Loyola ahead of the University of Northern Iowa 63-60 with 10 seconds to go in the fourth. The Ramblers went on to win 64-60 after Taylor Johnson split a pair behind the free throw line. This was the first time since 1984 that Loyola defeated Northern Iowa.
Goodhart currently leads the team with 33 three-pointers in 24 games. She said she has been working on finding her spot on the court for Loyola.
“[Shooting three-pointers is] one big role that [Vann and I] have,” said Goodhart. “We shoot the ball. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re good at and we know that in order for us to keep winning games, that’s what we need to do.”
Goodhart said she came to Loyola for its great academic opportunities as well as to help head coach Sheryl Swoopes build the women’s basketball program.
Goodhart is not alone behind the arc. Vann has also been a key player for the Ramblers’ shooting and defense.
Vann currently holds a .306 three-point shooting percentage and has 93 total rebounds, 68 of which are on the backcourt.
In the shooter-dominated Missouri Valley Conference, Vann, who is an Oklahoma City native, said three-point shots are important momentum boosters during games.
“Every team that plays [is] really big on a lot of threes,” said Vann. “So I think that if we can bring that to this team, it will help us. We have great posts and a good inside game. I wouldn’t say we struggle from the three, but it’s not our best, so Grace and I figure if we can [shoot threes] then we are bringing something to the team and making it better.”
Goodhart and Vann said they are assessing the team’s strengths and weaknesses, finding solutions and learning their places in the mix. They said they believe this mentality is key in college athletics as well as in any successful team.
Both players work hard at adjusting to the pressures of a college court, according to Vann. Aided by the veteran players and Swoopes, they said they are finding their most valuable positions on the team.
Coach Swoopes has inspired the team with her consistent words of wisdom and unwavering dedication to the game and her players, according to Vann.
“Confidence, confidence, confidence,” said Vann about what Swoopes teaches. “[She says] if you believe you have that and if you believe in yourself, there’s nothing that can stop you.”
The Ramblers hold a 12-12 overall record and are 8-5 in conference. They are expected to play Illinois State on Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in Gentile Arena.