The Webster University women’s basketball team had most of its core players graduate last year. This season, they have 17 new freshmen players with only six returning players. The Lady Gorloks were 20-7 and went 12-4 in their conference last year. They were 11-1 at home.
Jaysea Morgan is the only junior on the team, which does not have any seniors. Morgan said the team needs a lot of patience learning new strategies.
“We are figuring out how everyone plays,” Morgan said. “Our first loss [Saturday] was a good learning experience. I think going forward we will learn how to play together better.”
Coach Jordan Olufson is in his 11th year at Webster and said he has never had eight players graduate on him in a single season.
The women’s basketball team started the season with two convincing wins. Saturday’s loss to Augustana College was a competitive game with end-to-end action. The Lady Gorloks lost 63 to 59.
Sophomore Darieana Hunter played in 20 games her freshman season, averaging eight minutes a game. Hunter said only Morgan had a lot of playing time last season, but believes this young team is on the right track.
“Last night’s game was just a test,” Hunter said. “People think we might not be that good because we are a young team. Our team is hungry for success, though. We are playing well together and finding chemistry early on.”
Olufson said his program believes in teamwork.
“Our program and system has to have everyone buying in and working together,” Olufson said. “We don’t isolate individuals, and everything is about the team. We have been blessed that our culture of play has been about this and passed on.”
Peter Conowall is a Webster University chemistry major who has videotaped the women’s basketball team the last three years. Conowall said the team is young, but he expects another passionate team with a good defense.
“So far, I’ve seen the intensity and hustle that’s necessary to execute Olfuson’s defensive scheme.” Conowall said. “Coach “O” is a very passionate coach who teaches tough defense and a good transition offense.”
Olufson said his team is about work ethic and learning during practice to do great things.
“Our team is full of a lot of talented players,” Olufson said. “We can shoot it, push transition, pass, defend and outplay you. This team has a lot of strength when we use [those elements]. A big thing for us is to be consistent and get better each day.”
Morgan is the only returning player who logged notable time. She played in 26 games, averaged 16.5 points a game, had 70 rebounds with 34 assists, had 62 steals and tallied 203 points her freshman year. Morgan said her freshman success was rare but it comes down to work ethic.
“It’s really hard to learn new strategies,” Morgan said. “In practice, not everyone gets the same amount of repetitions. You really have to work hard to get those reps. You’ve got to learn how to play collectively and learn each other’s style to be successful.”
Olufson said his staff does not approach recruiting or teaching any differently in a transition year.
“Every year we go to recruiting showcases, combines and high school games all summer in different states,” Olufson said. ”We are always looking for student athletes who fit our concept of teamwork. We have a great recruiting class this year with a lot of talent to add to our talented returning [players].”
Hunter said this year’s team is young and different but they have great chemistry already. She said they also have time to build to get good.
“A lot of people are expecting us to be not as good because we are a new team,” Hunter said. “We have a lot of great minds with different styles of play and talent. We are hungry. Yes, we are young, but when you put all that together, that’s what you need to do great things. It should get us far.”
The 2-1 Lady Gorloks will play their next game Wednesday night against Fontbonne University which is 1-2.