Photo by Sarah Sanchez
“If you look at last season from the outside and don’t really know the story, it’s really hard to understand what really went on last year,” said Cathy Nixon, head coach of UVU’s women’s basketball team.
The 2016-17 season was filled with both good and bad surprises for the Wolverines. Last year’s squad was a young team, having five freshmen and four sophomores listed on the roster. Injuries became an issue throughout the year, with the team playing eight games with just seven players and having two games with only six active players. The combination of a young roster, multiple injuries and illnesses had the team finishing 3-11 in WAC play and 9-22 overall.
Things turned around for the team in the WAC tournament, where the No. 6 seed Wolverines upset No. 3 seed Cal State Bakersfield in overtime and fell by a single point to No. 2 seed Seattle, barely missing out on the conference championship game.
“I think last year was an absolute testament to perseverance and resiliency,” Nixon said.
This season again includes mountains to climb for the Wolverines. Tough preseason play and a long road trip spanning the majority of November await the team to start off this year’s play. Initial opponents include Oregon State, which made last year’s NCAA tournament, and BYU, which participated in the WNIT.
“We have to create our own energy from the bench, on the court, whenever we do anything well. We’ve got to create as much energy as we possibly can,” said Taylor Christensen, returning guard for the Wolverines.
Mariah Seals and Christensen, the team’s only returning seniors, were selected as members of All-WAC preseason second team.
“It puts me in a role when I need to emphasize being a leader and holding up a standard and expectation of what we need to do this season,” Seals said.
Seals not only finished as the ninth leading scorer in the WAC last season, but finished first in minutes played as well.
Christensen finished first overall in steals last season in the WAC and also finished as the fifth leading scorer in the conference. She knows that she can do more than she thinks she can.
“If you set your mind to something and make a decision, your body will follow,” she said.
Overall optimism and an attitude of perseverance is the feeling surrounding the team this year.
“When we’re at full strength and when we’re together as one, we can be really good,” Seals said.
The Wolverines open up with an exhibition game on Nov. 6 at the UCCU Center against Ottawa University at 3 p.m. The game will be a good test of how far the team has come, and how far it has to go.
“This is our last season. We’ve got to own it,” Christensen said.