The Northwestern women’s basketball team has carried a legacy of greatness. They have reached the Final Four of the national tournament in each of the last six seasons and picked up four national championships. The Raider women maintain high hopes for their 2013-2014 campaign.
“Our goal is to always be the best team on the court when we play,” junior point guard Paige O’Neal said. “We just work hard to compete and get better every day in practice. We want to keep that same mindset, learning from each game and continuing to get better.”
Last season, the Raiders finished with a 26-8 overall record (15-5 in GPAC) and ranked fourth in the final national polls. The team was lead to the Final Four by last year’s NAIA National Player of the Year, Kendra De Jong. This season’s team is prepared to continue the tradition after only losing two seniors.
“Kendra is an amazing player and did remarkable things for us in her time here,” head coach Chris Yaw said. “We have basically everybody back from last year’s team, besides two seniors. We are very confident that if we stay the course and work together, we will be a tough team.”
This year’s team motto is “One Spirit, One Purpose.”
“The key is these girls playing with that oneness,” Yaw said. “These girls are playing with a tremendous sense of gratitude for the gifts that God has given them. They are playing together in a way that glorifies God, and that is playing together.”
De Jong’s four-year spot in the lineup will be tough for this group of Raiders, but they seem prepared for the task ahead.
“So many people have improved since last year and over the summer,” O’Neal said. “Individually we don’t have anyone to replace Kendra. Everyone’s role has grown on this team, and we are all taking a little more responsibility.”
As a coach, Yaw has been searching for a way to replace De Jong.
“Filling that spot is tough,” Yaw said. “The key isn’t finding someone to replace it; it is having a good group to collectively get the job done. Everyone has a job to do, and we are making sure that each job is done well.”
Right now the Raiders are picked to finish third in the GPAC and seventh in the national rankings.
“We are going to keep building on the foundation,” senior Sam Kleinsasser said. “We are just going to keep getting better as the season goes on.”