The Loyola women’s basketball team’s four newcomers not only bring technical skills to the court, but also bring a driving passion to create a successful team.
The Ramblers welcome three first-years — guard Janae Gonzales, forward Allison Day and guard Maya Dunson — and junior college transfer guard Jazmine Covington. Although all four of them bring different individual strengths, each one believes in the central mission of the team’s rebuild.
“I’m really just looking forward to keep pushing forward and getting better and just finding success in the group that we have,” Gonzales, 19, said.
Gonzales, a first-year undecided major, said she received a scholarship offer from Loyola during her senior year of high school, but she didn’t commit immediately since it was her only offer.
However, she said she realized soon after how much she wanted to come play at Loyola.
“You can’t beat this,” Gonzales said. “I’m so thankful, you know. I worked hard to get here all four years of high school, even before that. I’m just really glad to be here.”
Day, a business management and sports management double major, said she got her opportunity to come to Loyola after meeting head coach Kate Achter when Day was at a Xavier University basketball camp. When Achter later became head coach of Loyola, Day said she received a call from Achter giving her an offer at Loyola.
The four might only have two regular season games under their belts at Loyola, but they’re already filling the stat sheets for the team. Day totaled 14 points against University of Detroit Mercy Nov. 12, and Gonzales put up 14 against Youngstown State University Nov. 9.
Gonzales said her biggest contribution to the team is her ability to shoot the ball and spread out the floor; she added Dunson does a great job tricking the other team with what she’s going to do next.
Covington, 20, said she’s still settling into the new position she’s been asked to play at Loyola, and is working on improving through repetition and help from her teammates.
“Scoring was my number one thing [before I got here],” Covington, a sociology major, said. “They want me to adjust to being the point guard, so I’m also learning how to score off that.”
When it comes to the team’s rebuilding process, the newcomers said they don’t shy away from the daunting task. After 10 out of 13 players left due to former head coach Sheryl Swoopes alleged player mistreatment, Achter began rebuilding the team from the ground up once she was hired summer 2016. The team finished in last place out of 10 teams in the 2016-17 season and ninth in the 2017-18 season.
Covington said when she heard the team’s record, she wasn’t frightened, but passionate about driving to improve it.
“I wanted to be part of changing that, because 7-23 is not what I saw when I got here,” Covington said. “I felt like this could easily be changed if we’re just … playing together.”
Dunson, 18, echoed this desire to help with the change, saying how she watched the practices get better every year she came to visit since her sophomore year and thought the practices were up to great standards when she got here.
“We’re actually competing in games,” Dunson, a biology and neuroscience double major, said. “I think being a part of a program that can actually turn and get people to come out and support us … will be fantastic.”
Off the court, the newcomers have quite a wide variety of hobbies. Theyrange from Gonzales’ love for music and playing ukulele to Day’s love for being outside on her family’s farm.
“We raise beef cattle,” Day said. “When I go home, I like to just go out, be with the cows, just be out in nature.”
Covington spoke to her love of video games and her favorite game right now is Fortnite. Outside of video games, she said she likes to get to the gym and shoot around.
Dunson said one of her biggest hobbies is watching “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” along with reading. She said she enjoys studying, as well.
With all the excitement around other Loyola sports teams this year— women’s soccer winning the Missouri Valley Conference championship and men’s basketball making it to the Final Four — Covington said the women’s basketball players are ready to make it their time, too.
“We want to have that opportunity,” Covington said. “All of us are just trying to be on that level. We’re all trying to hold each other to a higher standard, which is awesome.”
The Ramblers are set to travel to University of Illinois at Chicago Nov. 17. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:12 p.m.