by Sena Hughes
Though the Whitworth Women’s Basketball Team is off to a 0-3 start, they are optimistic about their potential for the year. The inaugural week of the 2011- 2012 season handed the Pirates three tough losses, but head coach Helen Higgs says a challenging preseason is intentional.
“Our preseason schedule is difficult, but it will help us get ready for our league,” Higgs said. “We just have to raise our level of playing from where it was last year.”
Tuesday’s season opener against the Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers resulted in a 67-63 loss for Whitworth. After leading the first three-quarters of the game, the Mountaineers’ persistent defense and domination on the boards caused the Pirates to lose their control of the game.
“I hate starting off with a loss,” Higgs said, “That’s always hard, [but] I felt there were more things to build on than to fix.”
The Pirates were lead by lone senior Lexi Belcher who finished with a game-high 20 points, 18 of them coming in the second half. Four Whitworth players were in double digits.
“Overall, it went well,” Junior Emily Guthrie said, “It’s not that we didn’t fight hard or press hard. We just need to keep getting better.”
Guthrie had 15 points and added six rebounds and two assists Tuesday night.
Friday, the team traveled to Decatur, Ill. where they first played the Big Blue of Millikin University and lost 77-64. The Pirates were cold from behind the arc, shooting at only 21%.
“We were resilient,” Higgs said. “We didn’t shoot well, but we kept fighting and battling.”
Belcher led the Pirates again with 16 points and sophomore Kayla Johnson added 13.
All weekend, Whitworth felt a noticeable difference in size.
“Defensively, they were bigger than us so it was tough to guard their post players,” Belcher said.
Higgs reiterated that rebounding was a weak point for the team in all three games and needs to be improved.
Saturday, the Pirates lost to a nationally ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater team, 80-57. Belcher continued to lead the Pirates and contributed 18 points. Higgs mentioned Belcher’s solid performances at each game.
Junior Lauren Picha’s jump shot with 11 seconds left in the first half sent Whitwoth to the locker room only down by four. But UWW took control in the second half, blowing the game open for their 23-point victory.
“We’ll play really, really well for a while and then have a downturn, so we just [need to be] consistent for forty minutes.” Higgs said.
In response to the weekend’s road trip, Belcher realized the need for improvement but had a positive attitude.
“I think both the teams that we played were obviously really good teams and I think the fact that we lost by so much doesn’t really reflect how good of a team we are,” Belcher said. “Those games are only going to make us better.”
Higgs would like to see more focus on little details in practice as well as games this week.
The team is hoping to earn their first victory on Wednesday at Evergreen State. They will travel to southern California next weekend to play California Lutheran University on Saturday and then Sunday against Chapman University.
“ [Our] main goal is to get our first win against Evergreen on Wednesday,” Belcher said. “Hopefully that happens and hopefully we can just continue to improve a little bit at a time.”
Higgs is confident in the direction the team is headed.
“We still have really high expectations,” Higgs said. “We expect to play well and play together and move forward.”