By Will Conerly
The Quincy University women’s basketball team’s first official game is Nov. 9 against Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, OH in the crossover challenge.
“I’m really excited about this season, we’ve got great team chemistry going and that’s always important for the game of basketball,” Head Coach Jeni Garber said. She is in her eighth season at QU.
Last season the Hawks averaged 65.0 points per contest. That mark ranked 11th in the GLVC out of 15 teams. Quincy will have to find a new leading scorer after Anika Webster, who averaged 17.4 points per game last season, graduated.
In fact, the Hawks’ three top scorers from last season Webster, Julia Ruzevich, and Jessie Rabas are all not back on the 2018-2019 squad.
“Offensively we really want to try to push the ball in transition more this year, trying to get some easy buckets and score quickly because we are a little bit smaller,” Garber said.
Alexa Low averaged 6.2 points per game last season, which is the most of any returner on the team. Low is also the tallest player on the team standing a 6 feet, 2 inches tall.
Defense and rebounding is a critical point of emphasis for the Hawks this season. Without Webster, the Hawks lost their lead rebounder as well.
The Hawks averaged 22.9 defensive rebounds last season which ranked 13th in the conference. With lack of size comes lack of rebounding, an issue the Hawks will try to combat.
“That is going to be an issue we will try to combat in different ways. We are going to try to run a little bit more, pack it in on the defensive end, and press a little bit,” Garber said.
Quincy allowed 71.7 points per game a year ago, which was 13th in the conference. Expect to see the Hawks pack it in on defense this year and have their team run the court in transition.
This year there is more balance to the squad. There are two seniors, four juniors (2 transfers), four sophomores, and four freshmen (one redshirt). Last year’s squad had 10 freshmen and just one senior.
“We are much more balanced in the classes this year. Experience-wise, we have some upperclassmen with some experience and we’re going to count on those people to really help the younger ones out,” Garber said.
The Hawks have gone 13-42 in the past two seasons. Garber and the squad are trying to get back to their winning ways when they went 25-6 in the 2015-2016 campaign, the last time the Hawks went above .500.
“Our goal on the court is to win the Subway Classic that we host in a couple of weekends from now, We want to finish above .500, and we want to make the GLVC tournament,” Garber said. “Goals within the team, we want to get better every day, want to be a tight-knit group, respect each other and make sure we are helping each other out and being unselfish.”
IDENTITY OF THIS TEAM
What will be the identity of the team? Losing key pieces to the team has them in a search to shape what they can do.
Garber talks about the play of the guards and how they will be critical.
“We are guard-oriented so anyone can bring the ball up at any given time,” Garber said “Our post players run the floor very well, so we are hoping to get some easy buckets from that.”
Moving the ball forward and playing fast seems to be the mantra of the team.
The Hawks shot 36% from behind the arc last season, which was third best in the GLVC. Getting the easy transition scores, while being able to knock down the deep ball efficiently again in the half court offense is a must for Quincy.
SO… THE SIZE?
Haveing little forwards can cause problems like being out rebounded, missing second-chance points, easy points in the paint, and fatigue. You will likely see Quincy run a smaller lineup (without typical forwards) due to the lack of size on the team.
“The forwards probably do have a little bit more pressure on them because they are going to have to stay in the game. They are going to have to play a lot of minutes and stay out of foul trouble. That will be one area we will continually have to work at,” Garber said.
Taylor Hickey, Alexa Low, Michela Gronewold, Jess Merino, Maddie Spagnola, Aleksandra Petrovic are all returns on this team with an opportunity to lead.
“There is not one person that is the dominant leader, and that is what I love about them. It’s everyone is collectively leading, and everyone is respecting each other’s opinions and really coming together as a team,” Garber said.
HOW WILL IT ALL HAPPEN
“Keep having the determination mindset that we have in practice,” Garber said “If we trust each other in everything we do we will reach our goals.”
Alexa Low is one of the only forward players on the team. So, they have been practicing ways to beat teams despite a disadvantage in height, but with their speed.
Quincy will try to run the floor and utilize the fast-paced style of place to outwork players with more size than themselves. Low scored 10 points in the first exhibition game and eight in the second exhibition game last weekend.
Low has determination in mind after two frustrating basketball seasons.
“Win some games this year, our biggest goal is to make the GLVC tournament, it is the first eight teams, something we haven’t done in the past two years, and it’s just expected of this program so I think this year we really need to make emphasis, and we’ve talked about it, to make the GLVC tournament at the end of the year,” Low said.
With the new style of play, Low says that Quincy players may not be used to the quick, push the ball up to floor transition method of play. With this style comes a requirement for quick decision making.
“I think we’ve done a good job of finding our team chemistry, especially so early in the year,” Jess Merino said.
Chemistry is something all the players noticed and pointed it. Alluding to the fact that it is a different feel than a year ago.
“Definitely the team chemistry is our main focus. One thing we really put an emphasis on before we got into any officials games or practices was the foundation of our team, which is basically trust, communication, respect, and work ethic. And if we hold each other accountable to all those components of our foundation I think we can be pretty successful,” Merino said.
Merino now gets to be a leader on this team.
“Obviously it is going to be a little bit of pressure, but there’s is nothing that is upperclassmen can’t handle.”
Taylor Hickey and Michaela Gronewold the two seniors on this team
Hickey, Low, Spagnola, Gronewold, and Schraufnagel started for the Hawks in the first two exhibition games. Hickey scored 10 points in the first exhibition game, and 11 in the second. Hickey, Low, and Gronwwold will be the bulk of the offense this season.
“Going into these game they count, they matter, they go into the record book,” Hickey said.
Hickey is the only player who has been in this program for four years. Senior Gronewold came from community college last year.
“In my four years of being here, I’ve never had a set group. We’ve always had transfers come in, people leave the program, so I just really think to understand each individual’s style of play,” Hickey said. “I would say honestly it’s going to be fun to watch. I think we have a lot of energy and excitement on our team.”