The St. Olaf men’s and women’s basketball teams are excited to get their seasons underway. Both teams are ecstatic about a return to a regular season after last year’s season was canceled due to COVID-19. Despite the impact of the pandemic, the teams were able to bond and show promise to field competitive teams this winter.
The men’s team is anchored by strong upperclassmen leadership, with 11 junior and senior players including Dominic Bledsoe ’22. Bledsoe chose to use his extra year of eligibility granted to all athletes last year due to the impact of COVID-19, to return to St. Olaf. With the upperclassmen leading the way, the team has high expectations. “Obviously, the main goal is always to just win the next game, but ultimately I think we have a team that can compete for a MIAC championship, get the Goat back from Carleton, and ultimately if we do all the things that we can do, and I think we should do, we can make a run in the MIAC tournament and then the NCAA tournament,” Bledsoe said.
The men’s team used the COVID-19 year to bond as a team and play a few exhibition games. “The COVID year, as much as it sucked not to have games, it really strengthened the bond of the team and I got to know guys a lot better than I probably would have normally,” Carter Uphus ’22 said.
The women’s team finds themself in a much different situation, as they are a very young team. The women’s team has six underclassmen who will be competing in their first college season and six returning players. The women’s team also has a new coach, who was able to work with the team last year and use the abnormal COVID-19 year as a teaching opportunity. “We got a bunch of extra reps with the new offense and defense so we know it better coming into this season. Now the upperclassmen know it and we can help teach the younger players,” Rachel Kelly ’23 said.
The women’s team’s main goal this year is growth. They are excited about a new start and the opportunity to compete in the conference with a new coach, a new system, and new players. They also have some big games and fun matchups this year.
“Carleton is always a good game,” Kelly said. “I’m also excited to play Bethel this year because they crushed us two years ago and they graduated the Player of the Year, so I’m excited to play against them and see their new roster and how we can compete against them with our new roster.”
Both teams stressed how thrilled they are to return to playing the sport they love in a full, regular season. “I’m just excited to get back out there. It’s been a few years. Those that are juniors now, I haven’t played with since they were freshman,” Bledsoe said. “It’s been good to get back out there and compete alongside them.”
The men’s team tipped off their season with a nail-biting 73-74 loss to UW-Stout but have rebounded with wins over UW-Stevens Point and Bethany Lutheran College. You can catch them in action on Nov. 17 when they take on Gustavus-Adolphus College at home in their MIAC conference opener. The women’s team starts their season on Nov. 16 against Crown College at home and then hit the road to play St. Catherine University and Gustavus-Adolphus.