With nine new freshmen and the Wildcats making the jump to Div. I, it was a year of rebuilding for the women’s basketball team with new members, establishing themselves as a competitive program.
Four months and 30 games later, ACU finished 18-12 on the season and 8-6 in the Southland Conference. They competed against 23 Div. I schools and beat 12 of them, including Texas Tech in Lubbock.
“As a coaching staff, I think we did expect to be successful this season, but probably no one outside our program thought we would,” head coach Julie Goodenough said. “I had an idea that our freshman class would be pretty good.”
The nine newcomers ended the season ranked second in the nation in points by a freshman class. Only the University of North Carolina had more.
Guard Alexis Mason led all freshmen in scoring with 12.4 points per game. Freshman forward Suzzy Dimba also averaged in double figures with 11.3 ppg and her 47 blocks far and away led the team. Guard Lizzy Dimba (9.8 ppg) had the highest shooting percentage at 50 percent among all new Wildcats women’s basketball players. The bench was bolstered by freshmen Sydney Shelstead and Jessica Elkins who provided consistent minutes and production.
Despite the efficiency by the rookies, it is no secret that the upperclassmen led this team. Sophomore Whitney West owned the point guard position all year and the offense hinged to her tempo. Senior Renata Marquez led the team in scoring (14.8), steals (1.9) and assists (3.9). Her leadership and experience was irreplaceable to such a young team.
“These girls never played like freshmen,” Marquez said. “They all wanted to win, and every day in practice we pushed each other to do better, which transferred on the court.”
Marquez is passing the torch to next leader, but more than one name rises to the top. The Dimba sisters, Mason and West have potential to lead the team. Next year’s team looks to have multiple players in significant leadership roles.
Next year, ACU will again be ineligible for the NCAA tournament, but they can compete for the Southland Conference regular season title. In addition, they could receive consideration for an invite to the WBI and WNIT tournaments.
“Going into the 2014-2015 season, our goal will be to win conference and compete in a national tournament,” Goodenough said.
With a year under their belts, these athletes will bring tougher competition next year. While NCAA rules may not allow the ‘Cats to compete in the Big Dance again, that is not stopping them from dreaming big.