The buzzword surrounding the women’s basketball team heading into the 2011-2012 season is “system.”
This is because the team will be making the switch to the run and gun style of offense made famous by Loyola Marymount in the late 80s and in more recent years the Grinnell men’s basketball team.
“We changed to this system because it has a lot of great options for our team,” junior forward Sara Johnson said.
“We are more of a fast-paced team anyway and this system has a lot of pressure defense, quick shots and options that allow us to move quickly. We plan to be a very fun team to watch.”
The plan consists of rotating players into the game in short, five- player shifts, playing press defense the entire game, and focusing on three-point shooting while on offense. As a result of the fast paced, almost hockey-like mentality, head coach Emily Cline plans to play everyone on the 18-player roster.
“With 18 players on our roster it makes practice better, especially with the nature of our system, it has improved competition and will really provide us with the depth we need,” Cline said.
“[We’ve had some] much -needed competition in practice,” Johnson said. “The younger players really came out to compete this year right from the start which is also a nice change, they are hardworking and very willing to learn, they will definitely make an impact this season for the team.”
Cline also noted the impact of the six freshmen the Prairie Fire has brought in this season.
“There are going to be at least four getting solid playing time, which is good, but they are still freshman. They are going to have growing pains, but if they can adapt, the future is very bright for Knox basketball.”
But in addition to young talent, the Prairie Fire has experience returning as well. Last year Knox had one senior, this season the Prairie Fire enter with five.
“This is the biggest senior class I’ve had here at Knox,” Cline said. “It is always nice to have a group of experienced veterans.”
Senior guard Lynn Mueller, is especially excited to come back this season. Mueller, who was a co-captain as a junior, was injured for most of last season and is looking to make up for lost time.
“Coming back from an injury is always a tough thing to do both mentally and physically,” Mueller said. “However, I worked really hard in the off-season to get back for the start of this season. I actually got re-injured during the pre-season so it has been quite the ride, but I am ready to play, and I cannot wait to have a great senior season.”
In addition to Mueller, seniors Abby Owens, Kelly Ricketts, Steph Nunez and Krystyna Williams all are entering their final season for the Prairie Fire.
“[We] have been through so much in our four years here at Knox. But we have made it to this point together, and I am so thankful to have those four be here with me,” Mueller said. “This year, we are all considered team leaders, which has been nice in the sense that we all have a role in the leadership of the team. Most of us are vocal people, so it should be much easier to set a good example for our younger players.”
Last season Knox finished 6-17 and is picked to finish ninth in preseason coaches’ poll, but the team is not focusing on past results or prognostications.
“Right now our thoughts are mostly focused [on] being the best we can possibly within our system,” Johnson said. “Of course, we as a team are striving to have a winning season this year.”
Early on the team has found out the true feast-or-famine nature of the Grinnell system. In the preseason scrimmage the Prairie Fire dominated Blackburn College, securing a 104-56 victory.
But in the season opener against Cornell the tables turned. The Rams were able to consistently break the press and crushed Knox 107-67.
It did not help that the Prairie Fire shot just 24 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free-throw line. Owens and Williams led Knox with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Johnson led the Prairie Fire with 8 rebounds.