Last month, the Warren Wilson College women’s basketball team began its 2016-17 season having posting its best record ever (17-12).
Despite its success last season, it didn't make the USCAA Division II National Championship Tournament. It hopes to change that this year, largely because last year's failure to do so still stings.
“We should’ve gone to nationals,” said sophomore Danasia Dumas, who was a first team All-American selection in 2015, another first for the program.
Owls head coach Robin Davis, entering her third year this season, believes that the strength of her team’s schedule should have gotten her team into the pool of eight that played for last year's USCAA Division II title.
“Ultimately we fell short of a bid,” she said. “But we played one of the toughest schedules in the conference, and I was banking on that to play a larger role when it came time to award those bids.”
Last season the Owls, who played 18 games against colleges that offer athletic scholarships, won their final six games.
“We learned a lesson last season that strength of schedule is just one of the factors that goes into awarding tournament bids,” Davis said. “I believe we were probably just one or two wins away from getting in.”
Warren Wilson lost starting center Lilvia Bradbury and center Bogan O’Brien to graduation. Junior Allison Church and sophomore Christina Childers, both listed as forwards, will look to fill the void down low.
The result of the more guard-heavy lineup this year has been a faster tempo on offense, one that delivered the Owls an 82-68 win over Hiwassee College in the Owls' season opener Oct. 29.
Dumas picked up where she left off last season, leading Warren Wilson in scoring with 28 points.
“We put up 82 points in the first game, which is a lot of points for us,” Davis said. “We shot a lot more 3-pointers than I would have liked, but we made a lot of them. We’ve had some injuries too, so we have players that aren’t 100 percent right now.”
Sophomore Jada McCrimmon was recently cleared to play after suffering a knee injury, Davis said.
“Her whole game is usually driving to the basket,” Davis said. “But right now she’s a little limited, so I know we’ll shoot from the outside a little more than we have.”
Depth at the guard position will allow the Owls to play high-pressure perimeter defense, resulting in transition opportunities.
“Playing a little more uptempo is great for me,” Dumas said. “I love to push the ball on fast breaks and give it up to the open person.”
More opportunities in transition should also give Dumas a chance to reach her personal goal of scoring 1,000 points in the 2015-16 season. Rebounding will be everyone's responsibility, Dumas said, because the team relies so heavily on rotation.
"We’re mostly a team of guards, so rebounding will be important for us,” she said.
The changes in the Owls’ style of play shouldn’t keep the team from building on the strong 2015-16 season, according to Davis.
“There is no reason we should move backwards at this point,” she said. “We know we need to get to at least 17 wins, and we may need to get to more than that. Now we have even more experience under our belts, so there is no reason why we can’t keep moving in the right direction.”
The team's next five home games
Nov. 19, 3 p.m., vs. Alice Lloyd College
Nov. 26, 1 p.m., vs. Brevard College
Nov. 27, 4 p.m., vs. Lander University
Dec. 2, 6 p.m., vs. Hiwassee College
Dec. 6, 6 p.m., vs. Emory & Henry College