The SPU women’s basketball team is currently ranked sixth in the country and has jumped out to a 6-0 start. This is their best start to a season since 2007-2008, but no two games have been the same, and it definitely hasn’t been easy.
The Falcons started the year in Fresno, Calif., taking on Humboldt State and Fresno Pacific in the West Region Crossover Classic. Both games were very close as the Falcons won 71-66 and 56-55, respectively.
Against Fresno Pacific, the Falcons won on a last-second shot by senior guard Aubree Callen. With 6.7 seconds remaining, Callen drove the length of the court and took her shot with 1.2 seconds left as she hit nothing but net.
In the Sodexo Tip-Off Classic, the Falcons beat Montana Tech 65-46 and Point Loma Nazarene 62-28. The 28 points given up by the team is the lowest they’ve allowed in a game in 30 years.
Finally, in the Azusa Pacific Crossover Classic, the team won another pair of close games against UC San Diego and Azusa Pacific. The Falcons won in overtime against UCSD 66-63 on junior guard Betsy Kingma’s buzzer beating 3-point shot and later beat APU 83-74.
When asked about the success that the team is having this year, head coach Julie Heisey points back to last year.
“Last year we had a good team, but we had some big injuries in January,” Heisey said. “We had nine returners coming back [this year], and even though our record doesn’t show it, we have a lot of good experience coming back.”
The Falcons finished 17-11 (10-8 GNAC) last year, but it could have been a completely different story if the team stayed at full healthy.
Unfortunately, the team has already been bitten by the injury bug this year, as well. Callen went down against Montana Tech, tearing her ACL, and she is done for the rest of the season. Senior guard Mechela Barnes has been suffering from severe tendonitis and she has sat out most of the games this year recovering.
Having torn her ACL so early in the season, Callen is definitely disappointed that she can only sit on the bench her senior year.
But she is able to come back and play again next year and is making the most of her opportunities now.
“She’s taking notes and watching a lot of film because she wants to be a coach anyways,” Heisey said. “So we’re gonna try and help her that way.”
Callen had a lot of hopes and dreams for this team and recognizes it won’t be easy not being able to contribute directly on the court.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done in my entire life,” Callen said. “I really just want to be out there with my teammates, but it’s just going to look a little different this year.”
But the injuries to key players have not been enough to slow this team down.
“I think the main thing has been our spring and summer workouts,” Callen said. “We really bought into our coach’s philosophy, and we have everyone committed to one common goal.”
The clutch shooting late in games has really helped this team, as well. Heisey points to composure and experience as the reason behind winning those games at the last second.
“Both Aubree [Callen] and Betsy [Kingma] are composed under pressure,” Heisey said. “They were both in situations where they just made something happen.”
The team has had a very eventful start to the season, and they’re looking to get even better as the year progresses.
The Falcons open up GNAC conference play when they travel to Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage this Thursday and Saturday.