Practice is in full swing as the Valparaiso University women’s basketball team puts in work and preparation for the 2018-2019 season.
As the Nov. 7 season opener at UIC and Nov. 11 home opener against North Dakota creep closer and closer, the anticipation and energy surrounding the program continue to build. Head coach Mary Evans is set to embark upon her first season at the helm.
“The most important thing we’re talking about as a team is getting better every day and trusting the process,” Evans said. “We’re learning, growing and meshing as a unit. Practice has been a lot of fun. Looking back at this past week, I can’t think of a single day where our players didn’t bring great energy and effort. That’s the most important factor in getting better – playing as hard as you can all the time. We’re learning a great deal, and our players have successfully implemented what they’ve learned at a high tempo.”
Senior Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain), the team’s leading returning scorer at 11.6 points per game, enters this season already ranking 18th in program history in points and seventh in 3-point field goals made. Like her head coach, Hamlet looks forward to reporting to practice and being with her teammates each day.
“Everyone is really excited and eager to be on the court,” Hamlet said. “Our team is really excited about practice, and that’s not something you hear very often from any team in any sport. We’re at the time of year where we can sense that the season is right around the corner. Everyone is eager to start the regular season and implement everything we’ve been learning in practice.”
Allison Schofield (McCordsville, Ind. / Heritage Christian) joins Hamlet as part of this year’s senior class. A veteran of three seasons in the program, Schofield is poised to take on leadership responsibility.
“I’m definitely still learning and growing into my role as a senior leader,” Schofield said. “Everyone has bought into the new coaches’ plan for this season, and it’s been fun to watch us grow as a team. I’m trying to help push my teammates to get better every day in practice. I’m developing as a vocal leader on and off the court. That’s my focus and that’s what Coach Mary has asked of me.”
Redshirt sophomore Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) is excited and anxious to see what this team can accomplish once the games begin.
“The atmosphere in practice has been filled with energy and excitement,” Stoller said. “Players are smiling, having fun and wanting to be there. Everyone is pushing each other and there is a lot of unselfish play. We spend a lot of time together off the court and build strong bonds, so we can hold each other accountable on the court.”
Shortly after Evans finished assembling her staff – which features assistant coaches Mary Gleason, Gabby Johnson and Tyeasha Moss and director of basketball operations Sean Eaton – the group sat down to discuss a program hashtag. Despite being new to Valpo, the staff members were well educated on the University’s history and tradition. That’s how #RingTheBell was born.
“Ringing the bell here at Valpo is something you do when you graduate, so the concept speaks to our goal of being successful both on the court and in the classroom,” Evans said. “We want to be one of the best programs in our conference and continue to have great success academically and in our personal lives. My message to our players is that whatever they do in life, it’s important to put in the time and effort to be very good at it. That’s what #RingTheBell has become to us.”
The hashtag has taken off, and in three words encapsulates everything Valpo women’s basketball is all about this season.
Hamlet: “To me, #RingTheBell is about winning games. That’s our goal. We have confidence that we can win the games on our schedule and we have a fair shot to beat every team we play. The team that works the hardest is going to win.”
Stoller: “#RingTheBell gives us a consistent message and establishes a trend that we want to continue. As a program, we want to be consistent in everything we do, from our messaging to our play on the court. We’ve seen our coaches get excited about ringing the bell and that’s allowed us to dedicate ourselves to it as well.”
Schofield: “I love the idea by our coaching staff and think it’s a tremendous concept. Ringing the bell is synonymous with Valparaiso University as a whole and has been for quite some time. This allows us to become closely associated with something that is University wide rather than separating ourselves as women’s basketball. To me, #RingTheBell means victory and finishing the close games that we’ve struggled to finish in the past.”
Fans will have a chance to get a sneak peek at the team on Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Hammond Civic Center as the Valpo women’s and men’s basketball programs participate in a practice that is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.