The 2018-19 campaign for the women’s basketball team included several successes.
A Crossroads League regular-season and tournament championship, along with a trip to the NAIA Division II National quarterfinals marked a record-breaking year in Head Coach Jody Martinez’s second season at the helm.
The Trojans compiled a 30-5 record last season, with a 16-1 record inside Odle Arena. Before falling to Dakota Wesleyan in the National quarterfinals they had won 22 games in a row.
Focus now turns to the 2019-20 season, as Martinez and his team look to continue building.
Despite last season’s success, the polls aren’t convinced the Trojans can repeat. They find themselves 15th in the preseason NAIA Division II coaches’ poll, behind two conference rivals they finished ahead of last season. While the team may not be getting the respect it deserves early on, they’re using it as motivation.
“We use (the ranking) as motivation to work hard every day,” senior guard Abby Buchs said. “We just keep that in the back of our minds as we train for the season.”
Abby, who started 33 games last season, made the Preseason Third-Team All-Crossroads League. Abby’s twin sister Becca Buchs made the Preseason First-Team All-Crossroads League after an NAIA Division II All-American Honorable Mention performance last season.
Even though the two combined to average nearly 30 points a game last season, neither concern themselves too much with the individual honors. Although Becca had an impressive junior season, she would rather focus on her team.
“Just doing as much as I can to help our team,” Becca said. “Whether that means scoring or not, just whatever is best for my team.”
Martinez had high praise for the Buchs twins and knows the two seniors will have to carry much of the load for the Trojans.
The team has had to deal with injuries as they prepare for the upcoming season. Martinez said both junior Lauren James and junior Kiara Nieto will miss the season due to injury, along with freshman Makenzie Kilmer.
However, Martinez thinks the injuries can be overcome. The team may have lost key players to both injury and graduation, but the talent and potential to build off of last season is still there. Martinez believes it will just take a few more months to see the team at full strength. Defending the conference title and making it to nationals is still the goal.
“We’re not there yet,” Martinez said. “But it takes time. We lost key people in the mix of our vision (for the team), and now people have to step up, and they’re working hard.”
With the injured contributors and graduated seniors from last season, Martinez said a few players could breakout and surprise some people. He mentioned senior guard Sydney Huffman as someone who could have a breakout. Martinez said Huffman should get a lot of time running point (guard) this season.
The thing is, the Trojans don’t have to be at their best this early in the season. Last year’s team lost its first two conference games before running off 16 straight victories.
“Figuring out what our identity is might take a little longer,” Becca said. “But our goal, like coach will say, is that by March we want to be the best team. We’re not worried about being the best team in the nation in November. March is our end goal.”
Abby added on, saying that the most important thing early in the season is getting better everyday.
Don’t get it wrong. They still have the weapons to hurt teams right now, even if they aren’t at their best.
Martinez and the Buchs twins mentioned the team’s balance and shooting on offense as being strengths. Martinez added that he thinks this year’s team is even more dangerous from deep than last year’s squad that finished No. 4 in the NAIA Division II in three-pointers made.
“Top to bottom, everyone can shoot,” Abby said.
With the shooting and scoring up and down the roster, Taylor should be excited for the upcoming season. Even amid the adversity of injuries, there seems to be very little this team won’t be able to accomplish.
Freshman to senior and guard to center, this basketball team has the potential to entertain fans, and if last year is any indication, they may be able to pull off an impressive run in nationals.
The team will begin its season tonight in Odle as the Trojans take on Concordia University at 6 p.m.