The women’s basketball team is in a familiar spot, sitting at 1-6, right where it was this time last season. But there is a difference. The energy with which the team hits the court each game has far surpassed anything seen last year. Although some of this is due to the coaching change, the team’s enthusiasm seems to be bolstered mostly by its first-year players.
“The intangible part about these first-years is that they have plenty of enthusiasm,” head coach Stephanie Glance said. “They are high-energy people, and they are fun to be around.”
This is true of all five of the Lions’ newcomers, but it is most visible on the court from guard Carolyn Binder and forward Tori Oliver, each of whom has solidified her role as a key player early in the season.
Binder has become the Light Blue’s top scorer, and she shoots the ball from outside with the confidence of a veteran player, hitting 42 percent from beyond the arc. That confidence was on display in week three, when she was awarded Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors after scoring 23 points against Lafayette.
“Binder is one of the most confident players I have ever coached, and I love that about her,” Glance said. “She believes she can do it, and she plays like that. There is not enough to be said for players like that, that have that kind of confidence.”
Because of the team’s travel schedule, the athletics department did not make the first-years available for interviews.
Becoming the Lions’ lockdown defender has proved a relatively seamless transition for 6-foot-0 forward Tori Oliver. But as the season has progressed, she has shown more and more glimpses of what she can do offensively. Last weekend, against Portland State, she led the Light Blue in scoring with 18 points and nine rebounds.
“She has the ability to get to the rim, she has the ability to break down defenses and finish, and she can convert at the free-throw line,” Glance said.
Also getting more time on the court recently is first-year Devon Roeper, who, alongside junior Amara Mbionwu, will look to fill the void that will be left in the paint after senior Courtney Bradford leaves the Lions.
“Devon Roeper has made an immediate impact also, even though her stats don’t reflect that as much as Tori and Binder’s do. But she’s been getting more play time,” Glance said.
Additionally, Glance has been pleased with the progress she has seen from Carolyn Gallagher and Ara Talkov.
“Both Gallagher and Talkov have the ability to shoot the ball,” she said. “They have the ability to hit open shots. Those are their strengths. They are just not caught up yet to the level of Division I basketball. They need to get better at mixing it up on both ends of the floor.”
Although Glance is happy with the production she has gotten out of her first-years early in the season, she believes that as they grow together, more success will follow.
“Collectively, the first-years have great potential, and I believe that they will help us turn this program around and build Columbia’s women’s basketball into a very competitive program.”