With a statement win over SUNY New Paltz on Tuesday, the Oswego State women’s basketball is looking to make its season, that has contained highs and lows, into a successful one, as it looks to make a run by earning a berth into the SUNYAC playoffs.
A major factor in the production the Lakers have earned has come from none other than the freshman class. With five of the 11 players on the roster being first-year students, and with last year’s team losing three of its top four scorers to graduation, one would question if this team could be successful. But thanks in part to the recruiting class that head coach Tracy Bruno brought in, they have their sights set on the postseason.
The freshman class includes forwards, Rachael Windhausen, Zana Dillard and Lindsay Johnson. As well as guards, Alisha Jacobs and Courtney Ameele. Windhausen and Jacobs have seen the most action with both being in the top five in minutes played on the team, and also being in the top three in scoring.
Both Windhausen and Jacobs made impacts right from the start, with Windhausen recording a double-double in her third game, and both of them scoring 23 points in their fourth games.
They agreed it was a bit of an adjustment period going from high school to the college level with the differences in the speed of the game and more talent on the floor. But it was the effort they made in the preseason that led them to have such a presence early on.
As the season progressed, the numbers showed that neither of them felt hard effects of transitioning to college with them climbing up amongst the best on the team in points, and in Windhausen’s case, rebounds, as she is second on the team, averaging seven per game, behind junior Heather Hebert. Jacobs is third on the team in assists, averaging 1.9 per game, behind Hebert and sophomore Mary Mazzella. She is also second on the team in steals, averaging 1.8 per game, behind Mazzella.
For the both of them it’s the pressure that these upperclassmen and returning players, put on themselves in practice that has led to their great success.
“They don’t go easy on us in practice, and they just encourage us to help us get better,” Windhausen said.
Jacobs also felt the pressure as she had to earn her starting spot on the team, something that motivated her to work hard to where she has been in the starting five for the Lakers’ last 17 games.
Along with the encouragement from their teammates, Jacobs and Windhausen also said how the positive attitude from Bruno helped their level of play increase. While during games, whenever they are subbing out and sitting on the bench, assistant coach Erin Skaradek is giving them information on what they are doing well and what they can improve when they go back onto the floor.
While Jacobs and Windhausen are toward the top in many different categories, they are the leader in their own right in one category. Windhausen with blocks, averaging 1.7 per game, and Jacobs with three pointers made, averaging just over two per game.
Windhausen said how her size, with her 6-foot-2-inch frame, the tallest player on the roster, led her to be so good at swatting the shots of the opposition. She also admitted that having to get stronger for competing at the college level is what was a big factor.
While for Jacobs it is simple as just “chucking up the ball,” she has always been comfortable with shooting from behind the arc. As shown by her team-leading 121 three pointer attempts, but with a 33.9 percent success rate from those attempts, it is hard to argue with her aggressive shot selection.
They may now be the most productive, statistically speaking, of the freshman class, but there is a feeling that is shared between the both of them: All the freshmen are on the same level as they each bring an asset to the team and to one another.
“We all just look to each other, even I look to Zana or Lindsay, who though aren’t starting or getting as much playing time, we are all just really different,” Windhausen said.
The togetherness the freshman class has is what will make them interesting to watch in the future.
“I feel like we’re still getting to know one another, and how we play,” Jacobs said. “As years go on, I think we’re going to be really good.”
Even though the future holds great things for the players their focus is on the four games that are left in the regular season, which includes one against SUNY Plattsburgh at home on Saturday. The Cardinals currently hold the last playoff spot with a 6-7 conference record. The Lakers are currently 5-9 in the SUNYAC.
While discussing the run they are looking to make Jacobs said she hopes they make it. Windhausen’ jokingly questioned Jacobs’ use of the word hope.
“We’re going to. What are you saying ‘hope?’” Windhausen said.
That confidence comes off of the win over SUNY New Paltz, who is currently third in the conference. But according to both Windhausen and Jacobs the confidence has been increasing since then.
“It’s just been building, because even though we’ve lost our last couple of games before New Paltz, it’s just we’ve been playing so much better together,” Windhausen said. “It finally clicked on Tuesday.
While they have the thought of playoffs in their minds, they also said Bruno has been keeping them in the mentality of taking it one game at a time, something that will be key in the game Friday against SUNY Potsdam. The Bears are at the bottom of the conference standings, but could also upset the Lakers if overlooked.
“We definitely look ahead. We definitely have it in our mind we can get into the playoffs. But once we get to the game, we are just thinking about that one game,” Windhausen said.
Whether they make the run or how far they go, the future of the program looks to be in good standing. With this class of freshmen, they will look to improve on working together as a team and the help from their teammates and coaches, only time will tell how good the team can truly be.
“With so many of us, we can all improve each other, and get used to how each other plays,” Jacobs said.
“At this point in the season, we’re really trying to get to know how we play,” Windhausen said. “It’s just up from here.”