The Bob Jones University Bruins women’s basketball team struggled early this season, yet never gave up and finished 16-14 in regular season with a 7-2 record in conference play.
According to head coach Mike LeViere, the team “stumbled out of the gate” by losing to teams early on that they would not have lost to in the past. At the beginning of the season, LeViere tried to switch the way the team defended against screens, and he believes that is one of the reasons for the rough start.
The team began this season’s man-to-man defense by switching the player they were marking when screened, but only if the player matchup was right. However, the switches required too much thinking, according to LeViere, and the team found themselves giving up layups.
“When we’re thinking, our feet aren’t moving and we’re not performing as well,” LeViere said. “We’re having to think about too much out there instead of just playing the game.” After a few games, LeViere recognized the problem and switched the defense back to where players fought over or under the screen and kept their man.
Although the switching of the defensive style helped the team’s play, there was also the problem of losing a key player. Amanda Bates, a senior, was unable to play this season due to a lingering concussion from the end of last season.
However, transfer junior Delaney Edwards stepped up to fill the hole left by Bate’s absence, according to LeViere. Sophomore Lauren Smith also helped secure the post, filling in for her mentor.
Smith personally felt Bate’s absence. “She was someone you could trust to work hard and to create opportunities on the court,” Smith said. Bates had also encouraged and helped Smith to do better during Smith’s freshman year.
Every year, teams go through new struggles. LeViere called the process through which teams find unity “storming, forming and norming.” Storming happens as players figure out their individual roles on the team. In the forming stage, the team begins to come together as players accept those roles. Norming is the final stage when things smooth out and the team begins to work well together.
According to LeViere, there were a lot of questions such as, “Who would fill Bate’s position?” and “What will the team’s chemistry be?” at the beginning of the season. But as of the week before the national tournament, LeViere said the team had reached the norming stage.
Senior Sydney Bedsaul noted the closeness of the team. The players encourage and support each other on and off the court. “I am truly thankful I was able to finish out my senior season with such a great team,” Bedsaul said.
The team’s spiritual growth and atmosphere stuck out to LeViere this season. One player told LeViere that while in Florida, she had gone downstairs for breakfast and had been encouraged to find most of the team doing their personal devotions over their food.
The team focused on impacting others using basketball. They participated in community service projects and have tried to incorporate random acts of kindness on the campus of BJU as well.
Although the team did not win the desired title at the end of the season, their season was characterized by overcoming difficulties and impacting those around them through their actions and attitudes.