Now that their season has ended, players from the Gophers’ women’s basketball team are beginning to unpack the memories from their time playing under head coach Lindsay Whalen.
The team opened up the year in front of a record-breaking sold-out crowd at the Barn. They rewarded those fans with a record-setting 12-game winning streak. However, once the conference season started, things quickly took a turn for the worse.
“We went through a stretch where we didn’t win in the Big Ten,” said Mercedes Staples. “But we came back stronger and pushed through that. … We know there’s a lot of potential that can help us leading to next year.”
Staples remains hopeful about the future of the team, given her relationship with Whalen.
“It was amazing; her basketball IQ is incredible,” Staples said. “She taught me so much after just one year, so I’m excited to have three more with her.”
Staples will be back next year for her sophomore season, and the team is hopeful that it will continue to improve this offseason. Some other players have wrapped up their collegiate careers at Williams Arena.
Staples’ teammate, junior Taiye Bello, described the emotions that overran the team locker room following their season-ending loss to Cincinnati.
“It was a tough loss, and it was a really emotional locker room, but at the same time, now that the game is over, we have a lot to be grateful for. We went through a lot of growing pains this year, but we also were able to push through that. We had a slump in the Big Ten, but then we were able to go on our winning streak,” Bello said. “It was a lot of reminiscing and looking back on the season. I’m going to miss the relationship I had with the seniors and the role that they played off the court for the team.”
Bello was a cornerstone of this year’s team, and she agrees that the team has reason to be positive when reflecting on the 2018 to 2019 season.
“This was our first year together with a new coaching staff,” she said. “I think, despite all the adversity we faced, overall this was a great year for us.
“With Coach Whalen, I feel like the energy was just different, different in a better way.”
With the offseason now officially here, the players plan to devote time in the gym each day to improving their craft. The women will also have post-season team workouts once all of the dust from their season has settled.
In the face of adversity, expectations for the future remain high around the table.
“Personally, I want to win a Big Ten championship and make it to the NCAA Tournament,” Bello said.