After a heartbreaking season last year, the Pioneer women’s basketball team enters the new season with a few changes. With a new head coach and attitude, the team eagerly awaits the start of the winter sport season.
“It is definitely a change for the better,” senior point guard Caitlin Sharp said. “Coach Mishler is definitely good for us.”
Mishler, who is a 2005 Malone graduate and three-time starter for Pioneer men’s basketball, has had his fair share of coaching basketball by serving as a basketball coach at both Hiland High School and Tiffin University for the past six years.
Mishler is certainly bringing his experience to Pioneer athletics and is hoping to make a startling change this season in the Pioneer women’s basketball program.
“My goal for this season and year is to start establishing a certain mind set and certain toughness for the program that is going to benefit us for the future,” Mishler said. “And if that process and establishment is accompanied by us in wins that would be great.”
According to Mishler, having the athletes develop toughness both mentally and physically is essential to have on the court, and the women are catching on pretty quick.
“It is definitely a change from last year but in a good way,” Sharp said. “ He is very team-oriented and is a strong believer in working hard every practice and becoming tougher both mentally and physically. There is no in-between. You either work hard, give it a hundred percent or you leave.”
But being tough and focused is not the only challenge that these women and Mishler have to face.
Like many of the other athletic programs, Pioneer women’s basketball faces their biggest challenge yet, which is transitioning from NAIA to NCAA.
“The depth of the talent in NCAA is a big difference,” Mishler said.
Along with tougher competition, staying positive and upbeat throughout the process will also prove to be a daunting challenge for these Pioneers.
“The biggest challenge for this group is mentally when things go bad,” Mishler said. “We are going from the bottom of the NAIA to a tougher division, and there is no doubt that it is going to be tough. It is just a matter of how long the process is going to take to get adjusted and how we react to it.”
Sharp also commented on her views of competing against NCAA schools.
“I think it will be a challenge for all of us,” Sharp said. “We are comparable to Division II schools but it will definitely be a challenge to establish that toughness. I think our biggest challenge is to just stay motivated through it all, from beginning to the end, and not let ourselves get down over a game or two.”
Mishler and the Pioneer women hope to conquer any chaos that they may find on the court. The team has already seen remarkable improvement in its playing regime since Mishler took over. The hope for them is that they continue to improve as they strive to become a successful Division II program.
The Pioneer women make their first appearance in the 2011-2012 season at home in Osborne Hall this Saturday, Nov. 12th at 3 p.m. against Huntington University (IN).
Tina Oprean is a staff writer for Aviso AVW.