Will Vikings women’s basketball win more games this season under first-year head coach Sherri Murrell?
Consistency is a staple of every successful team or franchise. Think of perennial powers such as the New England Patriots in the NFL or a club like the Boston Red Sox in MLB. The superstar players, coaches and high-ranking executives have remained the same for several years, and championships have followed.
A team needs a firm foundation, not one shaking mightily from significant changes at nearly every level. And the Viking women’s basketball team lacks the essential components of consistency and stability, which means Portland State will be unable to improve on last year’s 12-18 record.
In the past five months, former head coach Charity Elliott resigned, four players abruptly left after Sherri Murrell was announced as the new head coach, and an entire slate of new assistant coaches and directors have been ushered in to fill the voids.
If that unprecedented level of turnover doesn’t spell inconsistency and instability, it’s difficult to determine what does. Viking fans should not have to look far for a prime example of how turnover yields dissatisfying results.
Step outside the Stott Center gym for a moment and shoot a quick gaze at the helmet-clad team on the field. Jerry Glanville and Darrell “Mouse” Davis are football geniuses, but even they are experiencing pitfalls as new coaches attempting to revamp a team.
Despite Murrell’s less-than-stellar 27-114 record over five years at Washington State, she deserves a fresh start in the South Park Blocks. Her local roots should bode well in recruiting, but expect more than a few hiccups in the upcoming season.
As Glanville and Mouse are learning on the gridiron, when a coach takes the reins of a program, many winnable games become head-scratching losses during the first year.
Sure, the Vikings have a legitimate star in junior forward Kelsey Kahle and a budding floor general in sophomore point guard Claire Faucher. But the four players who fled earlier this summer, Janie Bos, Jenni Ritter, Kerstin Brosterhous and Stephisha Walton, represented 40 percent of the Vikings’ offensive production last season. That will be difficult to replace.
Another player that Portland State lost is Heather Arns, who graduated this past year. Though Arns only contributed a little under seven points one season ago, she was a senior leader who shot the three-point ball well and led by example.
Kahle should slide into that leadership role, and the team’s lone senior forward, Delaney Conway, should pick up some slack as well, although Arns’ absence will make the transition even more difficult.
For the Portland State women’s basketball team, there are just too many changes, newly instated coaches and questions to win more games this season. Due to a lack of stability within the program, expect a rocky start followed by a late-season push for the Big Sky tournament from this year’s Vikings.
The women’s basketball team is short, has just one senior and is adapting to new head coach Sherri Murrell. So why do the Vikings have a chance to be good this season? It starts with Kelsey Kahle, the 5-foot-10 junior forward.
Kahle is the glue of this young team on the court. Two years ago she averaged 17.3 points a game and upped that to 18.5 points last year. She controls the boards, is a great blocker and has the quick hands needed to grab steals, snagging 86 last year in 30 games.
Another player to watch out for is Claire Faucher, the sophomore point guard. Faucher was third on the team in scoring last season, with 8.1 points a game, and she dished out 5.8 assists per game in only 21 contests.
Faucher’s ability to distribute the ball will be key, as will her ability to knock down outside shots. Faucher shot .474 from three-point range last year. In a starting role, she should be the most improved player on the squad.
Expect a big year out of senior Delaney Conway, the lanky six-footer from Seattle, Wash. Conway has always played a back-up role, and her scoring average dipped below six points a game last year. But she has a nice shot, is a tenacious defender, can play multiple positions and should be excited to contribute in a big way in her last year in the South Park Blocks.
This team won’t be good just because they have a few star players, however. After winning just three games in former head coach Charity Elliott’s first season, the Vikings have won 12 games each of the past two seasons.
Elliott did a nice job turning things around, but a 12-18 record last year can be considered underachieving, especially when a five-game and three-game losing streak are taken into account.
Those losing streaks are what this Vikings team should be able to avoid this year. There are some very winnable games, save for a dangerous stretch of seven road games starting Dec. 8 and continuing through the beginning of January. If they win even three of those games, which include two conference contests, then the Vikings should be in good shape.
No one expects the Viks to go 20-10 this season, but it’s not out of the realm of reason to expect an improvement over the last two seasons. There is always a large measure of parity in the Big Sky, and 16 wins aren’t out of the question.
In college basketball, returning quality players is half the battle. This team has three impact players returning, including the key position of point guard. That’s good enough for at least 12 wins, but probably more.
–Owen R. Smith