Jenna Johnson knows full well Utah Valley women’s basketball hasn’t met its own expectations this season. She knows they lost games they should have won, meshed later than they should have, and underachieved in their own eyes if not those of the coaches’ preseason poll.
In short, this year’s Wolverines team looks a lot like its 2010 GWC tournament champion predecessors heading into the Great West Conference Tournament.
Now a senior, Johnson hopes the 14-14 (6-4 GWC) Wolverines can again catch fire when it matters most.
“We haven’t done as well as we wanted to in conference,” Johnson said. “We wanted to take first [in the regular season]. We lost some heartbreakers we think we could have won. In that way, when we haven’t done our best, we’re similar [to 2010].”
Other significant holdovers from 2010 include three of Johnson’s teammates, post players Erika Newbold and Kaycee Mansfield and reserve guard Cydne Mason. Mansfield and Newbold combined for 22 rebounds in the championship game against North Dakota, and Mason steadied the bench effort with six points and five assists.
Johnson is eager for the team to encore two years later.
“We’re hoping we get to play North Dakota in the championship game,” Johnson said. “That’d be similar to, so that’d be sweet.”
The signs are there. Since suffering a four-game losing streak bridging the new year, UVU has responded to each loss with a win. Newly minted GWC Player of the Year Sammie Jensen has seen her post production (13.6 points, 10.3 rebounds per game) complimented by improved play from her perimeter teammates.
Johnson struggled at the start of the season, and was eventually moved to a reserve role as head coach Cathy Nixon sought to find a consistently productive lineup. The move paid off, with the former Spanish Fork Don scoring in double figures in four of the last six games off the bench.
And while the team results have been inconsistent, both Nixon and Johnson insist the the effort has not.
“The thing that encourages me the most is I know we’re going to work hard no matter what,” Johnson said. “Just that work ethic will put us in every game.”
The Wolverines’ confidence also stems from them having beaten in the regular season every team they could face in the tournament. They handed North Dakota their only conference loss, a 58-54 thriller on the road.
“That definitely gives us confidence,” Johnson said. “We know we can beat whoever we play.”
For Johnson, one of just two seniors on the roster, the tournament represents one last chance for postseason success, even as she looks to a new cast with which to recapture it.
“It would be sweet, because it’s my senior year, to go out and win the tournament again,” Johnson said. “That would be awesome. We can definitely do it.”