Women’s basketball kicks off final season as DIII school

Shreya Ravi | Mercury Staff

After winning the American Southwest Conference last spring, the women’s basketball team has entered their last season as a Division III school with a 71-43 win against Austin on Nov. 15. 

UTD will transition to a Division II school in spring, making this the last season the Comets will compete for an ASC championship. The first season after the transition will be a probationary period in which the team will be unable to compete in tournaments and championships. Last year, the Comets won their fifth ASC title in Feb. 2022 and qualified for the NCAA championship tournament, although they lost in the first round. Now, with motivation to be better than last season and the pressure of making championships, sophomore guard Amanda Crowninshield said the Comets have a stronger ambition to win.

“I think that has added a little bit of fuel to the fire,” Crowninshield said. “This might be the last time that most of us on the team get to go to the tournament. That is a little bit of added pressure, but I think we’re ready to go.”

Head coach Joseph Shotland is in his second year of coaching the women’s team and, he expects the team to do even better. While the team was still adjusting to a more aggressive defensive play style last season, they have adapted and now feel more at ease with Shotland and know what to expect out of practice.

“Every year, you are trying to refine the things and stay sharp at your craft,” Shotland said. “Whether that is new drills or new offenses or defenses, we are constantly trying to re-evaluate and be the best version of ourselves. We are going to compete hard and leave it on the floor. And that is what is exciting.”

Compared to the start of last season, the Comets’ average points per game have increased and they are currently undefeated. The team also passed their game high from the 2020-2021 season from 88 to 89 points. Now, Crowninshield said that they have found their identity as a defensive team. 

“I think throughout [last] season we kind of found that we are a defensive, aggressive team and being go, go, go all the time,” Crowninshield said. “It became integrated into our whole culture, in our practices and in the way that we interact with each other. We’re always focusing on going 110% and never letting up a play.”

This season, the Comets have dedicated their practices to focusing on defense and not letting up a play.

“I felt as if the bar was already pretty high,” freshman guard Molly Ly said. “First thing in the morning, everyone gets there, we get our shoes on, and we get down to business. In practices, things can get pretty [aggressive] because of how competitive we are, but everyone just wants to win.”

Practices are held at 7 a.m., and the girls get 3 straight hours to practice every day. This is a shorter time than the average five hours most DIII schools practice, so Shotland keeps practices short and packed and tries to recreate the intensity of games, making sure their time is used efficiently. 

“We’ve got a bunch of kids that want to win, and I think there’s a certain intensity level that you have to reach in order to win,” Shotland said. “One thing that I’m very excited about with this group is that we have 14 kids that have that winter’s intensity. So, it’s been fun to work with that in the early season and I’m looking forward to growing that muscle and continuing to get better.”

The Comets will play 17 more games before the ASC championship tournament on Feb. 22; dates can be found on the UTD Athletics website. All games are free for UTD students and Shotland encourages all students to come and support the Comets in their final run through DIII. Students can attend all home games for free, which will take place throughout January and February.

“I am very excited for where we are going to go this year, and I’m really hoping to win that crown again,” Crowninshield said. “We won last year and are ready to win back-to-back. That usually doesn’t happen in our conference, so we are ready to be the first ones in a long time to do that.”

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