Shooting for the crown
Pursuit of Mesa women's main goal begins tonight
A lot of teams don’t talk outside “the room” about their goals.
Ask any member of the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team or coaching staff about the Mavericks’ goal this season — it’s no secret.
They point to the RMAC championship banner that hasn’t added a number since 2002.
“We talk about it, but it’s not going to be easy,” CMU first-year coach Taylor Wagner said. “They know they have to put in a little extra time and sacrifice if they want to get there and accomplish that.”
It begins tonight for the Mavericks (4-0), who open RMAC play at Chadron State (0-3), then it’s on to Spearfish, S.D., to play first-year RMAC member Black Hills State (1-3).
The Mavericks are the only team to get through the nonconference unscathed. Preseason favorite Metro State, which began the season ranked No. 7 in the nation, lost three of its first five games and has fallen out of the national rankings. The two-time defending RMAC champion is still the odds-on favorite after a tough nonconference schedule.
“Missouri Western was pretty tough,” Metro coach Tanya Haave said. “They have a new coach and he recruited a lot of transfers we didn’t know anything about. That was a tough one on the road for us. Lubbock Christian at our place was as good as any Division II team; they’re No. 1 in NAIA. Colorado Christian was a good win for us, so I think the nonconference prepared us well.”
After losing All-American point guard Jasmine Cervantes and post Caley Dow to graduation, the Roadrunners have been getting players settled into their roles and new positions, relying on three senior guards, twins Brandi and Kristin Valencia and Emily Wood.
With conference play starting, Haave said the eight spots for the RMAC Shootout are anyone’s to claim.
“Definitely the top eight is really wide-open,” she said. “Mesa is scary. That’s a team that’s always scared me. They’re off to a great start, CSU-Pueblo is very strong, Regis has seven seniors. The league has good balance; you can’t take a break.”
Wagner’s system has been quickly adopted by the Mavericks, with the upperclassmen holding themselves and their teammates accountable. Junior guard Sharaya Selsor said after Saturday night’s win the Mavericks will “be our own worst enemy” this season if they don’t make every possession count.
Wagner has stressed the importance of conference weekends being a two-step process.
“I’ve talked about you have to be good on Friday but you’ve got to be great on Saturday,” he said after the Mavs routed Hillsdale Free Will Baptist 87-24 last Friday night.
That holds especially true on the road.
“Any championship team has to win on the road, has to be great on the road,” Wagner said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m excited about the weekend and see what we’re made of at the start of conference, playing games that count.”
And seeing if the games that count add up to a title.
“I didn’t come here to get second place,” he said. “I don’t think the kids are practicing for second place.”