It’s been nearly eight months, but ACU women’s basketball will make its return after a rocky 2020-21 season.
Once the final buzzer rang for the Wildcats, they had finished their season with a 14-13 overall record, earned seventh in the Southland Conference rankings and received eighth at the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
One person ready to learn and grow from last year is head coach Julie Goodenough, entering her 10th year as head coach. She realized all the adversity the team had faced last year and aims to use it not only to improve her team but also herself.
“We had more adversity and injuries last year than we have had in a while, and I didn’t handle it well to be quite honest,” Goodenough said. “We have high standards for our program, and I probably put a little too much pressure on them last year. Our standards have not changed, but now I have a better mentality, and I will make sure our players are ready.”
Entering this new season, the team will have to face numerous changes. One of those will be adjusting to the Western Athletic Conference, which boasts some of the strongest teams in mid-major basketball. The team will also be filled with eight new faces since the Wildcats added five freshmen and three graduate transfers to the roster.
One of the new faces is Emma Middleton, a graduate transfer guard from Div. II team Lubbock Christian. The Lady Chaps finished their last season 23-0 and became the NCAA Div. II champions. And, according to Middleton, she never expected to play in Abilene as a transfer.
“It was honestly kind of a God thing with how I ended up here,” Middleton said. “I wouldn’t have ever called that I would end up in Abilene, honestly. But, I am so grateful that the Lord had that in mind because without Him doing that, I would have never been able to meet these awesome girls and be a part of this program.”
Though there are plenty of new players on the Wildcats’ roster, there are plenty of familiar faces as well. Seven of the Wildcats on last year will return to play for the team, one of those being senior guard Madi Miller. Also, heading into the season, Miller was selected for the preseason second all-conference team which was selected by coaches across the WAC.
With all the new players plus the returning players, Goodenough has seen a shift in her team both skill and personality-wise. Along with integrating the eight new players and an aggressive, dynamic offense, she wants her team to aim to be tougher through adversity and selfless.
“This team is a little grittier and tougher than we were last year,” Goodenough said. “We got to be tougher when the chips are down and fight adversity better during our games. We also want this to be a selfless team because we have seen teams that have put the team first be successful.
Shortly, the fifth-ranked preseason team will start off their 2021-22 season at home, with the first three games being matchups against Southwest, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Angelo State. And with these first three games at home quickly approaching, Goodenough wants to team to make a good impression starting out the season.
“It seems so far away, but it’s going to get here really fast,” Goodenough said. “We are home for our first couple of games, and we really want to make a good impression with our fans and defend our homecourt. We still have a lot to figure out with our eight new players and seven returners, but we really want to make a great first impression with everyone.”
ACU will tip-off their season against Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 9 in the Teague Center. The game starts at 6 p.m. and will stream live on ESPN+.