The Loyola women’s basketball team (6-19, 4-10) is currently ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), and while the season has been difficult, there are signs of improvement.
At the beginning of the school year, the team set three goals: Be top three in conference in rebounds, be top three in field goal attempts and top three in fewest turnovers. They are currently top five in free throw percentage but fall under top five in the other two categories. First-year guard Ellie Rice said the players have been working hard since practice started.
“During practice, we work a lot on defense, especially rebounding,” Rice said. “We do a lot of rebounding and boxing out drills. For free throws we do this drill called five-spot where we have to finish through contact. For turnovers we do a lot of situations to help us learn how to better take over the ball.”
Sophomore guard Tiara Wallace said practice is key because they can focus on the things the team needs to work on in order to succeed on the court. She said it’s all about keeping your head up and focusing on what’s important for that game.
“We try to get to the basket as much as we can so we can get as many free throw opportunities as we can,” Wallace said. “We thrive on our defense, it helps our offense so if we can get rebounds, then we can get pushes on transitions.”
Head coach Kate Achter said it’s all about consistency. She said what the coaches emphasize now is what they’ve always emphasized: The big task of the game is valuing the basketball.
“We’ve kept it consistent,” Achter said. “The things that we emphasize consistently are what’s going to get done and I think with any goal that’s how you do it. You have to repeatedly demand that your kids do it, that’s the only way it translates.”
Rice said the only way the players were going to meet their goals was if they did it together and they needed to work together as one unit if they wanted to succeed.
“When we come to practice with the right mindset we push each other to always play hard for one another, because when we play as a team that’s when we can really succeed,” Rice said.
Teamwork was a theme among all players. Wallace said they enjoy working as a team because they want to see each other succeed. She said it’s not about just one of them but all of them.
“We like to share the ball with each other as much as we can,” Wallace said. “One of our goals during our pregame talks is sharing the ball as much as we can. We try to help each other out. We know who has the hot hand and we get it to them.”
Achter said she was impressed with the effort the girls have put into meeting these goals.
“I think all of them are really striving to improve those numbers because they’ve seen how impactful they’ve been on wins and losses for us,” Achter said. “How one or two rebounds can swing a game or how a couple trips to the free-throw line can really impact this. They’ve embraced it and they’ve just attacked it.”
One thing that hasn’t changed during what Achter called a “rollercoaster” of a season was the team’s goals. She said it’s important to have a reachable, consistent goal set from the beginning of the season.
“It’s not really fair to move the goal post so to speak,” Achter said. “These are the things we’ve been focusing on. I don’t want to cloud my kids’ minds with adding something that is kind of insignificant at this point. These are the things we’ve decided to be good at, so let’s go get them.”
Rice agreed with Achter. She said she’s valued the goals from the beginning of the season and they’ve helped aim her focus on something narrow and to succeed at that.
“Those have always been our goals,” Rice said. “They are written on the board in our locker room. One of them that we have added is this theme of toughness and resilience even through the difficult times we’ve had this season and the successes we’ve had too.”
The team’s improvement is shown in recent awards. Rice and first-year forward Abby O’Connor have been recognized for their success this season with Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week awards. While the awards are nice, Wallace said the team still needs to get better.
“We definitely are doing better than we were last year but we are not content with where we are at,” Wallace said. “We want to keep striving to be better so we’re going to keep working at it every day.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to play University of Evansville Feb. 23 followed by Indiana State University Feb. 25.