Corvallis, OR -- I joined the Oregon State women's basketball a few weeks ago in practice to learn how the start of the new season has been so far, as well find out what to expect from the team this season.
One thing that is without a doubt after watching these women play in practice in OSU's Basketball Center, is that they are coming in this season to win. These women mean business, and that is reflecting on how competitive they are in practice. No shot, block or steal is taken for granted, as their hunger for a National Championship needs to be fed.
Last year the team was 27-5 overall and 16-2 in conference, which is the team's best record in school history. It was an incredible year for the team, however, this year; they plan on setting the bar high, with goals to go undefeated and win the championship title.
Over the summer, the team took a trip to Italy to hone their skills as a unit overseas, getting in some extra practices and bonding as a team along the way. Coming into the season with old and new faces, the importance of team bonding and chemistry is vital to this group. One person that has taken note of this special group's dynamic is their head coach.
"I've coached a lot of teams that got along well in my career, and this team is right there with the best of them," said Oregon State coach Scott Rueck. "There is such a great chemistry with this group. Here in the gym- this is the place to be. This is the most fun, enjoyable place to be with this team and they all feel that way."
Senior Jamie Weisner lit up when asked about Italy: "That was such a fun experience," she said with a smile. "For the most part it was one big week of team bonding. It was helpful to utilize those 10 practices in Italy and get the freshman integrated into our program and just be with them and welcome them in."
All eyes are on Weisner this season to take on the leadership role for her team. She was the leading scorer last year averaging 13.7 points per game, and bringing in an average 6.7 rebounds. When asked about her role this year, she answered that she wants to lead this team, and elevate her game.
"I've always been a person that leads by example through my work ethic," said Weisner. "And I [plan] on being more vocal and more direct with my communication to my teammates."
This team's hunger for a National Championship is another forceful asset they hold alongside their solid team dynamic. I sat down with junior Sydney Weise to discuss their plan to end up hoisting the Championship trophy in April.
"It's just the little things every day, it starts in practice, and then eventually you start the season and get some games in there, and shoot around," said Weise. "Every single moment matters and I think not taking any possession for granted and listening to the coaches and trying to get better at what they're trying to focus on with your weaknesses.
"Then come game time, you've already put in the work, and you know just have fun out there with each other."
Senior Samantha Siegner had a similar outlook when foretelling the motive for the season, saying, "I think everyone on our team always sets the goal of National Championship, and I think that this year, especially from the success we achieved in the past years, it feels more real and attainable. I'd say that's our overall goal, and along the way you have to set little goals for yourself, just like winning this next game or competing in practice.
"And so I think that although that's a long way down the road, and you want to still have that set, we're really focused on the here and now and getting better in practice, and then having that translate over to games."
When asked about working with the team collectively to improve this year, Coach Rueck had one thing to say- efficiency.
"Overall efficiency, is probably the number one thing," "You know there's a couple looks that we want to use this year that's slightly different in how we use Ruth (Hamblin) and how we can just become a better team, and so there's a few wrinkles.
... But it's continuing to do things how we do them and taking next steps in efficiency and everything. They have such a great cohesion together it's really just a unique, special group of people."
Rueck continued, "So here were just reminding them at this point of the year what it takes, on the level of excellence that they performed at a year ago, efficiency, and just making sure that we're operating at that same standard. That's been the number one thing.
"Defensively we're using some different looks, and so it's been fun to experiment with some of those things. Italy was good for that, and right now it's just continuing."
One thing I am looking forward to is how vigorously this team is going to come out in their first game next month. This is a team that has only one thing on their mind, and after my time I have witnessed first-hand that they will not allow anything to get in their way.