After falling short in the 2014-15 season, the Belmont women’s basketball team is looking to build off the growth it displayed as it heads into this season.
Women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer felt last season was an important experience because it brought the team closer together.
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about who you’re going to become going through this,” said Newbauer. “Are you going to be tougher, are you going to keep persevering? Are you going to come together and stick together? I think we did that.”
At the preseason OVC Basketball Media Day, the Bruins were picked to finish third in its conference behind defending regular season champion UT Martin and SIU Edwardsville. Belmont garnered three first place votes.
“There are a lot of teams with more experience than us,” said Newbauer. “I appreciate the respect, but this team has not done one thing to earn that respect.”
With seven seniors from last year’s team graduating, Newbauer is looking for the new players to step up and show what they bring to the table.
“When you’ve got a team this young with kids that have never done it, you don’t want to put a cap on who can and who can’t do it,” said Newbauer. “Every team wants to find an identity and I don’t know what our identities going to be just yet.”
Junior forward Frankie Joubran believes the underclassmen have already done a good job of establishing themselves on the team through preseason practices.
“They work so hard in practice. They’re eager to be better,” said Joubran. “It’s so nice to have younger players that are ready to play and compete.”
The Bruins return two starters from last year’s team, including sophomore center Sally McCabe who was named to the preseason All-OVC team. McCabe was among the team leaders in points and rebounds during her freshman year. Joubran will also be among the team leaders after leading Belmont in field goal percentage and rebounds last season.
Belmont will play a tough non-conference schedule in the first half of the season including road games against Lipscomb, Western Kentucky and Ohio State. Ohio State enters the season ranked sixth in the country.
“I think all of us are excited for Ohio State,” said McCabe. “They’re a really good team, nationally ranked, but I think we’re looking forward to it.”
The conference season for the Bruins will begin on Dec. 31 and includes a nationally televised road game against UT Martin Feb. 15.
“For us, the most important part of the season is conference play,” said Newbauer. “You want to be in your best game form in February and March.”
With the start of the season around the corner, Newbauer wants the team to continue to focus on improving with every game.
“Last year some people think it was disappointing, but if you look at all the growth we showed on and off the court, it was a success,” said Newbauer. “If we can have those same sorts of successes with this group, young as we are, I think we can have a really fun year.”
Belmont will open its season Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Young Harris College in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins will also play the University of Alabama-Birmingham in a home game Sunday at 4 p.m.