The Michigan women’s basketball team does not have a schedule yet, but the COVID-19 pandemic has already created a season like no other. The challenges facing the Wolverines transcend any of their opponents this time as the pandemic will have unpredictable effects on the team this year.
One of the biggest obstacles for the team will be integrating their new freshmen. To date, these new Wolverines have had less than a week of official practice. While the NCAA put out a press release on Sept. 16 saying that the COVID restrictions and guidelines generally follow a normal preseason period, off-court team activities can have just as strong an impact on chemistry as official practice.
“(Building team chemistry) was difficult because usually that’s a lot of time where we get to know each other, get to practice a little bit,” sophomore guard Maddie Nolan said. “Practicing with a new team is really hard for freshmen sometimes.
“We have four new freshmen and a transfer. …(We’re) just figuring out where they fit in and what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are.”
Michigan is joined by freshmen guard Megan Fiso, forward Whitney Sollom, guard Elise Stuck and forward Cameron Williams. The Wolverines will also be joined by junior combo guard/forward Leigha Brown who transferred from Nebraska this offseason. Brown was the leading scorer for Nebraska, averaging 14.4 points per game, and could make an immediate impact on the team.
In a sport as fast paced and fluid as basketball, chemistry with one’s teammates is essential for success. Despite the challenge of integrating the new members, the Wolverines feel optimistic about their ability to do so.
“I give the freshmen a lot of credit for everything that they’ve done so far, coming in this weird situation, coming in freshman year, not really being able to assimilate to Michigan the way that everyone else has,” junior guard Danielle Rauch said. “We’ve definitely made an effort to, obviously, socially distanced, kind of team bond and do things of that nature.
“On the court, obviously, just getting used to playing with each other and teaching the culture here, just kind of getting everybody to buy in and get ready for the season.”
The team held their first practices last week and the general consensus was that they were successful and would be effective enough to get the team prepared for the upcoming season, however it may look.
“It went really well. It was fun to get back out on the court for a real practice time with everyone here,” Nolan said. “The energy was really high.”
Michigan will need that high energy if it hopes to improve from its 10-8 conference record last season. The team has yet to capture a Big Ten Championship under coach Kim Barnes Arico, who joined the program in 2012.
“We’re gonna treat the season the same, we’e gonna, you know, try to win as many games as we can,” junior guard Amy Dilk said. “Our ultimate goal is to be Big Ten champs and make a run in the tournament.”
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