Pioneer women’s basketball has been exciting to watch all year. With the recent six-game winning streak, which hasn’t been done since the 2006-2007 season, the team has made remarkable progress within the last three years under head coach Jason Mishler.
Beating the University of Findlay and Ashland University, who are defending national championships, Pioneer women’s basketball has taken a huge leap in its road on becoming a successful program.
“The biggest thing for us this year has been the players’ development athletically, physically, as well as mentally,” Mishler said. “We know different ways to win a game this year, whereas last year, if we weren’t shooting, well, we didn’t win.”
A lot of improvement has come for the women’s team since Mishler has been at the helm. Each year, their record has improved. This year’s record is 14-6 and first in the GLIAC south heading down the stretch in the regular season.
“Defensively, as a whole we are doing a pretty good job,” Mishler said. “There still are some areas we need to improve in, though, on the defensive side, like handling a zone.”
The women give up 62.8 points a game, which is the least amount a team gives up in a game.
“We have a great core of veteran players this year, and the whole team is buying into what we are about—winning a national championship,” junior guard Selana Reale said.
Reale is a major contributor to the team’s success. She averages 12.5 points per outing, which is second behind senior guard Deborah Simmers at 12.6. Reale is also tied for first in assist with junior guard Logan Pastor at 3.2 a game.
“Over the summer I know everyone was ready to get back at it, and I think that drive has carried over into the season,” Reale said. “I also believe our seniors Syd, Debbie, and Lauren all bring [a] great work ethic and that competitive edge to our team.”
Mishler said the seniors have played a major role in the program’s transition and growth.
“Our graduate assistant Mandy Jaeb is not just someone who was just a pretty good basketball player or just on a team,” senior guard Sydnee Penn said. “She was a big deal player. She was a smart player, a player that doesn’t take chances to lose a game but opportunities to win a game.”
Besides Mishler, Penn gives much needed credit to a coach behind the scenes who has helped her reach a level in her game that was much needed for this year’s campaign. Penn’s defensive game this year has her ranked first in the conference in steals at 45 for the season.
“I appreciate who my teammates (coaches included) are to me as people on and off the court,” Penn said.
The sisterhood that they have created has helped them in many games. Trust plays a major role in a team sports, and it comes from practice.
“Our bodies ache, but the bigger picture to this moment and season is larger than myself—we want to win it all,” Penn said.