Warren Wilson College women's team faces uphill climb
A year ago players on the Warren Wilson College women's basketball team found themselves trying to overcome a rough start to the season in time to make a run for the postseason.
After an 0-3 start to the 2017-18 season, the Owls are back in familiar territory.
Last season ended in a disappointing fashion for Warren Wilson, who started the season 4-1 before a nine-game losing streak that began in mid-November. The Owls went on to finish the season 17-13 after winning eight of their final nine games.
Despite the strong finish they were not one of the 10 teams invited to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Women's National Championship tournament in Fayette, Pennsylvania.
Head coach Robin Davis, who is in her fourth season at the helm for the Owls, was disappointed in the way the season ended and immediately began working on a plan to get her team back to the tournament, where they had not made an appearance since 2014.
"We learned we needed to adjust our schedule so we tried to make it not as strong (this season)," Davis said. "(USCAA) weighs wins and losses more heavily than they do strength of schedule."
Beginning this year, conference will allow the Owls to count two contests every against NCAA Division I opponents, like Furman University or UNC Asheville, as exhibition games.
"We would've been one of the top teams in the tournament last year if we would've been allowed to drop two exhibition losses," she said.
The new rule may help may the path to the post season a little smoother for the Owls, but the start of the season has been a rocky one, beginning with a 77-57 loss at Hiwassee College on Oct. 26.
Warren Wilson dropped another road contest to Alice Lloyd College two days later and fell again to Eagles in their home opener on Nov. 4.
"We're struggling with finding our groove," Davis said of the Owls, who added six freshmen to the roster this year. "We're looking to get the freshmen, who we're relying heavily on, to come in ready to go."
Those freshmen join a roster that includes junior Danasia Dumas, who picked up her 1,000th career point for the Owls last season while leading the USCAA in scoring. Dumas has struggled in Warren Wilson's first few games this year.
"Teams have seen her now four or five times," Davis said. "They're not going to keep letting her drop 20 or 30 points on them."
However, Davis believes Dumas is "too good of a player" not to get back on track.
"She's working on getting her teammates more involved and letting the game come to her," Davis said of Dumas. "That's something she's never had to do."
As Dumas plays herself back to the form that earned her All-American honors as a sophomore, fellow junior Amber Godfrey has shouldered much of the load on offense.
"She was an All-American last year too, so she's been asked to carry the bulk of the scoring so far," Davis said. "She's one of those players who is playing at the right pace all the time. In the past years she's been more focused on getting others involved and then finding her shot, but this year we've been encouraging her to find her shot first."
While the Owls have stumbled through the first few games of the season, Davis is confident her squad will get back on track.
"I'd love to finish the season with over 17 wins," she said. "Our end goal is still to earn that playoff berth, because I'm not expecting us to take a step backward this year."