The campaign starts anew for the women’s basketball team, as it opens the season at home against American University on Friday night at 7:00 PM and Duquesne University on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM.
Anyone who paid attention to Princeton sports last year knows this team had a season for the ages. Not only did the team go 30-0 in the regular season but it also put together unbelievable numbers throughout, particularly on the offensive end. The Tigers outscored opponents by an average of 23.2 points per game, and their efficiency was through the roof — shooting 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three-point line. Their defense, moreover, was also no small part of their success — the Tigers held their opponents to 52.6 points per game last season, a mark good for 6thin the NCAA.
This season, the Tigers look poised to make their mark yet again. They come into the 2015-16 season with the no. 25 ranking and return with three of their four leading scorers from last year.
However, the Tigers don’t enter this season lacking questions to answer. Of particular importance for this team will be continuing their streak of success without superstar point guard Blake Dietrick ’15. The unanimous selection for Ivy League Player of the Year, Dietrick led team in points per game and was the team’s primary ball handler and catalyst for much of the offense.
“Blake has left some really big shoes to fill, and I don’t think one person on our team can fill them,”senior forward Alex Wheatley said. “All five people on the floor are going to have to step best online casino up, in productivity on the offensive end, in energy, and [in] being vocal on the defensive end, in being gritty and being tough … it will be a different dynamic, certainly, but one that we’re accustomed to.”
Wheatley, scoring 10.9 points per game on a lights-out 56.2 percent clip, will most likely be one of the seniors to whom head coach Courtney Banghart turns toward to lead this team. With a team bringing in six freshmen (out of a roster totaling 17), a strong upperclassmen presence will be critical as the team strives to maintain its level of success from last season.
“[As a senior,] you develop a new role. You have to add something to your game every year that makes you better than last year,” senior forward Annie Tarakchian said. “I think that for our senior class, [it’s about] doing it within our offense.”
One of the most important tasks for the team, Tarakchian notes, is to not fixate on reaching the postseason and beating last year’s mark but to win its next game and continue the day-by-day development
“It’s a totally new year, new team,” Tarakchian said. “We take it game by game. I think it’s hard for us to look in advance so much.”
Trying to look too far into the future has its pitfalls when the challenges directly ahead can be so intense. In particular, the Tigers have little reason to underestimate the Eagles, who gave them one of their closest battles out of the entire 2014-15 season. In a season when Princeton at times seemed to crush other teams at will (with margins of victory as large as 71 points), American lost only 63-56. Moreover, the Eagles held the Tigers to without a field goal in the final 10 minutes.
Indeed, against American, Duquesne and every game afterwards, the Tigers play with a target on their backs. In addition, they’ll be watched intently from all sides — fans, opponents and media.
But if there’s anything the Tigers love, it’s stepping up to the challenge.
“We know we have a long way to go at this point still to get to where we want to get this year,” senior guard Michelle Miller said. “Being ranked preseason and just coming off of the year last year, we will get a lot more media attention … but I think, at least speaking for myself and my class, that we’re ready for that and we’re excited about it.”
“We’re trying to see last year not as some sort of anomaly or a fluke,” Miller said, “but as something we can build on as a program.”