by Tim Smith
For the Cedarville women’s basketball team, this offseason has been anything but dull between a coaching change, transfer players and incoming freshmen. But, none of that changes the fact that as a new season approaches the Lady Jackets are ready to achieve great success.
This will be the current team’s first year without Kari Hoffman, who is now the head coach of Wright State’s women’s basketball program. Hoffman was with the Lady Jackets from 2016-2021, during which she led her team to three Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) regular season championships. She was named G-MAC coach of the year twice and NCAA Midwest Region coach of the year three times.
New head coach Jason Smith has taken over the position from Hoffman after a ten year stint with Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee where he is the school’s all-time winningest coach.
Smith had many positive things to say concerning the players and their reaction to the coaching change.
“We have nine returners and four seniors that have played a lot of minutes in the G-MAC, so there is a lot of experience. Having them really lead this team and facilitate the process of the offseason has been good,” said Smith.
Senior Allison Mader also recognized the change that this offseason produced.
“We have four freshmen and a transfer student this year, on top of a new coaching staff, so it is a whole new dynamic in general. A lot of this offseason has been getting everyone on the same page,” said Mader.
Junior Paige Garr echoed her teammates’ thoughts.
“With any new coach, it’s about getting to know them and what they expect from you,” said Garr. “And then they are also getting to know us and where we have been, but it has definitely been good over time.”
For Mader and Garr, the experience of the team is key for the season.
“We are experienced, so although we have new people and a different dynamic, we still have the people that we have had, and that has helped bring everyone else along,” said Mader.
“Those of us that are experienced know what to expect this season and we will be able to help our team when the hard times come, when it is going to be a grind,” said Garr.
Along with a large amount of experience, the Lady Jackets also bring another important strength to the table – a strong offense.
“Shooting is one of those things where you can have it or don’t have it,” said Smith.”But I think that’s our strength.”
Cedarville boasts a strong and experienced starting five, and it is a group of players that has excelled on the offensive end.
“We have focused a lot on fast breaks and playing fast, as well as shooting because we shoot a lot,” said Garr. “The things that we are good at we have been practicing a lot on.”
With so much going for the team, it would be hard to find something to critique or improve. Coach Smith, though, knows where he wants to see the most work – defense.
“We are really gearing in defensively this year. We’re trying to get after the teams we play defensively a little bit more.”
Last year, opponents of Cedarville averaged 70.5 points per game against the Lady Jacket’s average of 82.6, so the Cedarville defense has played well. But, in the games that they lost, the opposition averaged 84.7 points. Smith’s focus on the defensive side of the ball could lead to lower scores for the opponents and to more wins for Cedarville.
“I really want us to come out strong on defense,” said Garr. “The offense will come, but I really want us to make a statement defensively early on.”
Key to Victory
As the season draws closer and closer, the team has begun to focus more on what will lead to success this season. Coach Smith emphasized the importance of being themselves early on in the season.
“You just really focus on being who you are, focusing on yourself rather than focusing on the other team,” said Smith.
The Yellow Jackets take on Lake Superior State University in their first game of the season on Friday, Nov. 12th at 7:15 p.m. They will follow that match with a contest against the University of Southern Indiana Saturday at 4:15 p.m.
Tim Smith is a senior Biblical Studies major and staff writer for Cedars. He loves football, 3 Musketeers candy and primarily speaking in movie quotes.