Four wins last spring launched the Cowley College women’s basketball team into unprecedented territory. Getting back to that spot is only part of the goal as the 2016-17 season begins.
The Tigers put together a strong regular season before winning the NJCAA Region VI tournament and advancing to the national tournament for the first time in 27 years. That taste of success brought a certain buzz to the program, but duplicating it won’t be an easy task.
“If we’re basing our success off of four games at the end of the season, we’re in trouble,” coach Todd Clark said. “The way it’s set up, you can’t live or die just on winning the region. We want to be competitive every day, every game, every practice. That’s something we can control.”
With two-year turnover constantly forcing Jayhawk Conference teams to repeat results with new players, the Tigers are fortunate that they won’t have to start from scratch. The unique challenge for Cowley will be mixing three key returning starters with a large group of newcomers.
Sophomores Bridget Mimmo, Amy O’Neill and Rhianna Mae Laing were starters last year who combined for 25 points and 12 rebounds, which is a strong nucleus to build another potential championship team.
“We have some very good starters back from last year,” Clark said. “If they stay healthy they’ll have a chance to improve even more. I believe they can lead. So we’ve got a nice core group, but they still need to be challenged.”
Among the newcomers are 6-foot-2 freshman Samantha Schwab (Goddard High) and 6-foot sophomore Kendra Green from Macon, Ga., Both should help Mimmo and Mae Laing on the post.
Clark said he expects to lean heavily on his returning starters at first. Getting those starters back should help buy some time as the newcomers adjust to the new level of play in the Jayhawk Conference.
“They’re the only ones who have a clue right now,” Clark said. “But hopefully in a few weeks we’ll have some who can jump in and help us. It’s going to take time.”
An expanded conference schedule will force Cowley into more important games earlier this year. The Tigers will go to Neosho County on Nov. 12, not giving them much time to get ready for the 26-game Jayhawk Conference schedule.
“We’re a work in progress,” Clark said. “The thing that we had last year was competitive people who wanted to get better. This is a difference group, but we’ve seen it. In this league that’s what you need, and hopefully we’ll be competitive.”