The Occidental women’s basketball team is back on the hardwood for a 25-game journey through the regular season. After posting a 13–12 record and falling short of a SCIAC playoff birth last season, the team rejuvenated itself with an influx of new, young talent.
This year’s team is composed of nine first-years, all of whom are looking to take the Tigers a step up in conference play and battle for the SCIAC title.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” head coach Anahit Aladzhanyan said. “It’s neat, exciting and everyone’s hungry.”
In addition to the first-years, the team consists of four sophomores and three seniors. Aladzhanyan has been very impressed with how quickly the team has gelled in practice.
“The team chemistry so far has been one of our highlights,” Aladzhanyan said. “For a young team, that’s been one of the more satisfying things at this point.”
The players are just as happy with this chemistry as their coach is. Even though most of the players have only known each other for a short period, guard Tiffany Kho (sophomore) said that the team has bonded quickly.
“Our chemistry is great on and off the court,” Kho said. “We hang out all the time and I think it helps translate that positive energy onto the basketball court.”
The importance of positive energy may be especially necessary for this year’s team, as not a single player on the roster reaches six feet tall. With this lack of height, they will have to play a different brand of basketball than most of the opponents they will face.
“We have to play smarter, and be smarter, since we are small,” guard Ashton Reid (senior) said. “As a team we have to be on the same page and communicate.”
The Tigers have few veteran players, so Reid and her fellow seniors—guard Stefanie Young and forward Eda Graham—will take on more responsibility this season.
The team has brought in new assistant coaches as well. Amanda Mills and former Occidental point guard Cressida Guanlao ’03 joined Aladzhanyan’s staff in the offseason to help maximize the team’s potential. Reid believes the current staff is the most impressive she has seen in her four years at Occidental, and praised the coaches’ ability to break down a brand new offense.
Both Aladzhanyan and Reid have high expectations for the squad. The Tigers believe they are capable of reaching the playoffs, regardless of the team’s experience level.
“Do I think we can do it? Absolutely, Aladzhanyan said. “But it is gonna take a couple things, a couple players stepping up and of course staying injury free.”
The team had a scrimmage game on Sunday against UC Santa Barbara, which the Tigers lost 64-30. They open the season on Sunday Nov. 16 against St. Thomas (Minn.).