By John Tveter, Sports Writer
The Pacific Lutheran University Women’s basketball team has a new coach this season and a new attitude as well.
Previous head coach Kelly Robinson resigned this past spring after six seasons leading the Lutes, compiling a 54-93 record, so PLU athletic director Laurie Turner had to look for a new coach for the team.
After a thorough search, Turner decided upon Jennifer Childress, who had previously been an assistant coach, recruiting coordinator and the associate head coach at Western Washington University.
Childress will look to bring a winning attitude and experience to help turn around the PLU program that enjoyed national prominence in the late ’90s and early 2000s. From 1999-2005, the Lutes advanced past the second round of the NCAA DIII tournament five times, but have recently fallen upon tougher times.
The Lutes will be led on the floor by their five seniors, including Chrissy Swope, Melissa Castor and Shelly Kilcup. Kilcup returns to the team after not playing last season. Hopefully Kilcup’s play is similar to her first-year and sophomore seasons when she was among the Northwest Conference leaders in 3-point percentage.
A strength of the team this year should be their frontcourt, which will feature the teams’ other two seniors, Katelyn Smith and Samantha Potter. Potter is a two-time Northwest Conference second-team all-conference player.
Those seniors said they have noticed a big difference between this year and the previous one. “She [Childress] was a necessary change,” Castor said. “She’s brought a new direction to the program and reignited our fire and passion for the game.”
The team has instituted a quicker, hard-nosed style under Childress, and the players are looking forward to getting to test themselves against other schools.
“We will be a well-conditioned team with an up-tempo style,” Smith said. “We really have focused on defense and rebounding because those are things we can control, and a motto of ours is to ‘Control the Controllables’ which means that we only worry about what we can change. We will be a completely different team than last year.”
Smith’s sentiments were backed up by Castor, who said, “we are looking to run the other team to exhaustion. We will control the tempo of the game, and therefore we will control the game.”
The style of play adjustment has been reinforced by Childress’ coaching style. Practices now feature rapid transitions from drill to drill, little wasted time and Childress demanding nothing less than each player’s best effort every second they are on the floor.
“There is a purpose to everything we do, and it makes sense,” Smith said. “She [Childress] does a good job of balancing her criticism of our play while keeping us confident in ourselves at the same time. She is very direct, straight to the point and she doesn’t play mind games. I like her and her coaching style, and our hard work will pay off in the end this year.”
The Lutes’ first game resulted in a [win against/loss to] South Puget Sound Community College. They played as hosts in the scrimmage, competing in Olson Auditorium.
This scrimmage was their final tune-up before their season officially kicks off Nov. 15 in Olympia against Evergreen State University. The Lutes’ first home game is Nov. 21 as they host Claremont Mudd-Scripps from California at 7 p.m.