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Women’s basketball team prepared to replace its senior class

With half of this year’s women’s basketball team having not played a full season of college basketball, this year’s team will look much different than this past year’s.

This past year’s team finished 30-5 overall and 17-1 in Mid-American Conference play, earning the second highest win total in both school and MAC history.

The team clinched the regular-season conference title for the ninth time in ten seasons, but fell to Ball State 73-55 in the semifinal round of the MAC Tournament.

The Falcons played their way into Women’s National Invitation Tournament where the team eventually fell to Rutgers 50-55 in the quarterfinal round. Rutgers went on to win the tournament.

The team graduated seniors Jillian Halfhill, Alexis Rogers, Jill Stein and Katrina Salinas, who transferred after redshirting her senior season.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces,” said head coach Jennifer Roos. “I can’t compare this year’s team to last year’s team. This team needs to find their own identity. This team needs to be the 2014-2015 women’s basketball team and they need to be the best they can be.”

Replacing the senior class will be difficult, but those shoes will be filled, senior Deborah Hoekstra said.

“There’s no way to really replace what they did and who they are,” she said. “Now we’re the ones who have to portray what the culture and the program is, and I think that’s been the biggest adjustment so far.”

In terms of replacing the play of those that graduated, it will have to be a team effort, Hoekstra said.

“The faces change from year to year, but what we do doesn’t,” she said.

The 2014-15 edition will return six letter winners from that team and two starters, redshirt junior Erica Donovan and junior Miriam Justinger.

With Leah Bolton and Kennedy Kirkpatrick returning from redshirts their freshman year and the addition of four freshmen, six of this year’s roster of 12 will play their first full season in a Falcon uniform.

“When you graduate a veteran group, I mean they played together for three to four years, and now we’re trying to get over half the team to play at the speed we need to play,” Roos said. “We’re still learning. The learning curve does not become more shallow overnight.”

One key aspect the team is focusing on this year is team chemistry.

“That has been a point of emphasis throughout the summer and throughout the preseason having almost 50 percent of the squad is new to the program and new to our expectations and cultures at Bowling Green,” Roos said. “I think the team has done a really good job at developing a strong team chemistry at this point in the season.”

The size of this year’s team helps the chemistry, Hoekstra said.

“Personally, I kind of like the smaller roster because one of the big things we have this year is great team chemistry and I think that is because of our smaller roster.”

Matthews said the team’s chemistry will be one of its strongest points this season.

“We enjoy playing with each other a lot more,” she said. “We have fun in practice, we have fun when we play together, and we have fun outside of basketball. So, that is going to be the biggest thing for people to see, that we enjoy being around each other and hopefully that will make basketball a lot easier.”

The team will be able to showcase its chemistry and identity this Friday in its first exhibition against Davis and Elkins in a double header with the men’s basketball team to kick off the 2014-15 season. The women will tipoff at 7:30 p.m. following the conclusion to the men’s game.

The Senators finished this past season with an overall record of 15-14 and a conference record of 12-4 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. The team returns three of its top four scorers from this past year.

The Falcons will look to execute at both ends against the Senators and put all of its work during the summer together.

“This is just game one of us playing together,” Hoekstra said. “The biggest thing we need is to find out our identity as a team, and that’s going to be on the court because practice and in the game are two different things. My expectation for tomorrow is for everyone to play really hard and have a lot of fun.”

Earlier in the season, Matthews put more meaning into the first game, but now it’s just another game, she said.

“I don’t think there’s necessarily any point in overemphasizing it’s my last first game,” she said. “There’s nothing we really need to prove to anyone at this particular point in the season. I think the first games are usually exciting and something we want to view as fun learning experiences.”

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