With 11 new players and four starting freshmen, the Weber State University women’s basketball team is young. This season, the young players have been working on growing as they search for their first win of the year.
The Wildcats have struggled this season and are coming off another loss, having fallen 65-47 at home to the University of Northern Colorado on Saturday. With the loss, the Wildcats slid to 0-21 on the season and fell for the 40th-straight game. After the game, head coach Bethann Ord said the team hasn’t lived up to her expectations.
Some of the glaring statistics in the Wildcats’ losses is the way in which teams are dominating them on the boards. Rebounding has been a struggle for this team, and Ord and her staff have focused on teaching this young squad the importance of boxing out.
“You sound like a broken record,” Ord said, “but we say ‘box out’ every time and ‘get your foot on the baseline.'”
Currently, the Wildcats are averaging 34.8 rebounds per game, while their opponents are averaging 44.2 rebounds per game. Although there are many areas of weakness, perhaps field goal percentage is their greatest weakness. The Wildcats are shooting just .324 from the field, while allowing their opponents to shoot .473 on average. Despite the challenges the team has had so far this year, Ord said she still sees some positives. She said the experience the young players are getting this year will be invaluable for the team in the future.
With four of the top five scorers on this team being freshmen, Ord said it is clear this team has talent and a bright future.
“They’re amazing young ladies,” she said. “These are my babies that I’m molding.”
Many of the leading Wildcats this season are freshmen. Jalen Carpenter, the Wildcats’ rising freshman star, leads the team in scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking. Kalie Matthews is the second leading scorer and also a freshman. Regina Okoye, the 5-10 freshman guard out of Albuquerque, N.M., leads the team in steals on the year with 61.
Ord, who is in her second season as head coach of the Wildcats, has been coaching for 22 years. WSU is her first job as a head coach. Before coming to WSU, Ord served as an assistant head coach at the University of Louisville. While coaching at UL, Ord and the Cardinals advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for three years of her four-year tenure, which also included the national title game in 2009.
Ord said the youth of the team could eventually be the team’s greatest asset. With nine freshmen total, the team is going to have time to mold and come together, which is why no one is hitting the panic button quite yet.
Carpenter also said she believes the team will grow increasingly stronger over the next four years.
“We are young, but that’s not an excuse anymore,” she said. “We’re going to get better, we’re going to mature as a group, and we are going to shock a lot of people.”
Carpenter said they have a lot to prove in the next three years, and that she is confident there is a bright future ahead for the Wildcats.
“When we get older,” Carpenter said, “we’re going to make a statement in this conference.”