The women’s basketball team opened its regular season last weekend on the road against its first National Collegiate Athletic Association Div. II opponents of the year.
After starting their 2019-20 campaign with two NCAA Division I exhibition games, the Bulldogs finally tipped off their regular season of play in Quincy, Illinois. The Bulldogs attended a three-conference tournament representing teams from the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Bulldogs are beginning their first season in seven years without Amy Eagan, the program’s all-time winningest head coach. The transition happened just days before the Bulldogs were set to begin practice, and has been difficult for both the coaching staff and the players. Bulldog forward and 2018-19 GLVC freshman of the year Maddie Re believes that despite the adverse start, the Bulldogs have found a way to adjust and focus on winning games.
“We were very caught off guard and frustrated for a little bit, but we all know that life goes on and that we couldn’t throw a pity party for ourselves,” Re said. “For the most part, our fundamentals and expectations on and off the court have stayed the same, just with little tweaks here and there, which has helped a lot because it’s not like a whole new coaching staff came in.”
Ahead of the regular season tip-off, Re said the team’s exhibition games made it clear to the staff that they had some fine tuning to do before they were ready to compete for a win. However, Re was confident in the team’s ability to pull together despite the distractions she and the team have encountered early in their season.
The Bulldogs’ first game of the season came against former GLVC opponent, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. In this game, Re’s confidence proved valid as the Bulldogs handled their business. After earning a two point advantage at the half, the Bulldogs found themselves in a tie game entering the fourth quarter. The Rangers hit two free throws late in the game to cut the Bulldog lead to just four. With the end of the game in sight, Truman finally began to flex its muscles and pull away. Forward Mackenzie Bray scored five of the ’Dogs next seven points as the team went on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 14 with just a minute left. Truman would hold onto the lead and walk away with its first win of the season with a score of 82-71. Sophomore guard Katey Klucking impressed in her first start as a Bulldog. Klucking put up a team high of 22 points in 32 minutes played, on an incredible 63% from the three-point line, accounting for all five of the team’s three pointers in the game.
In the second game, the Bulldogs matched up against GMAC foe Ursuline College. Ursuline entered the game 1-0 after beating Truman’s GLVC rival Quincy University on a buzzer-beater just days before. Despite its opponent gaining momentum over the weekend, Truman ended the first half with a five point lead over the Arrows. After pushing the lead to eight after the third quarter, the Bulldog defense locked down and allowed just 11 points in the fourth quarter, carrying them to a 87-75 road victory to move the team to 2-0. Klucking again led the way for the Bulldogs with 21 points in just 23 minutes and five rebounds. Re chipped in six points, eight total rebounds and an impressive five offensive rebounds. The Bulldog’s biggest advantage was in the paint where they scored 50 of their 87 points compared to the Arrows’ 30 points. This was in large part due to the play of the Bulldog forwards and centers, who Re believes will play a significant role in the success of the team this season.
“I believe the strength of this team is our athleticism,” Re said. “We are pretty experienced in the post position and young at the guards, which is the opposite of how it’s been in previous years. Our guards are talented but I think our [tall] girls can shine this year.”
After a strong performance at the tri-conference tournament, Truman returned to Pershing Arena to welcome the Augustana University Vikings. Truman’s post players led the charge with 20 combined points and 21 combined rebounds from Re and fellow starter Katie Jaseckas. However, the depth of the Vikings proved to be too much for the Bulldogs to handle. The Vikings’ bench outscored the Bulldog’s 26-12 in the game, and helped the Vikings defeat the Bulldogs for the first time this season with a score of 83-62.
Now sitting at 2-1, the Bulldogs still have four non-conference games to play before they hit the heart of their GLVC schedule in early January. For now, the Bulldogs have turned their attention to the Avila University Eagles who will come to Pershing Arena on Friday night. The Eagles are a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and are home to 2018 Truman alumna Remy Davenport, who is an assistant coach with the Eagles. Avila is 2-0 entering the week of Friday’s game, but have not yet faced an NCAA Div. II opponent. The Bulldogs are hungry, as they will be looking to capture new head coach Theo Dean’s first career home win.