Northwest women’s basketball prepares to begin the season under new leadership, hoping for a change in the culture.
As newly hired coach Austin Meyer enters the realm of leading the Bearcat basketball team, it’s a new environment for his coaching career. Austin Meyer, although being familiar with Northwest basketball due to being a part of the men’s national championship team during the 2016-17 season, looks to bring the success to the opposite side of the spectrum.
“Personally, my biggest goal for myself this season is to develop a relationship with my players individually,” Austin Meyer said. “If they know that we are here for them as a coaching staff, we will ultimately get more out of them on the court.”
It can be very difficult for an athlete to go through coaching changes during the middle of a career at a program, but for sophomore guard Jaelyn Haggard, it is an exciting and optimistic addition to the Bearcat family.
“Coach Meyer has brought an energy level that is consistently positive,” Haggard said. “Even if you are at your low on the court and you’re making mistakes, you know that he is going to have your back and pick you up.”
After only recording five wins during the entirety of the 2017-18 season, with four of them coming during MIAA conference play, the Bearcats are focusing on team leadership and the program’s foundation before beginning this season. Although losing just three athletes from last year’s roster, replacing a huge presence on the floor like Tanya Meyer could be a challenge for Northwest.
“I think the biggest thing that we are trying to do to be successful is change the culture of this program,” Austin Meyer said. “How we treat each other, a tireless work ethic, competing everyday, working hard and having fun are the main things we are doing to push this program forward.”
Since the defending national champion in Central Missouri is within conference play, the Bearcats know being successful within MIAA play is hard to come by. In the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association preseason poll, Central Missouri came in at the top spot in the country at No. 1, Fort Hays State came in at No. 12, and Emporia State received top 25 votes.
Before entering conference play, Northwest opens its season at Wayne State, who finished 25-7 overall last season, earning second in the south division of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The Wildcats outscored their opponents by 14.2 points a game last season, while racking up a 13-game win streak at home before ending their season in the quarterfinals of the NSIC tournament.
Expectations for the outcome of the 2018-19 season for the Bearcat women are internally very high. Haggard is very excited to get on the court and show spectators what this team can achieve.
“Honestly, it’s fun to know that everyone isn’t expecting much of us and based of of our record, people don’t think we will perform well,” Haggard said. “But we hold each other accountable everyday in the gym and push each other to compete, so we know what our expectations are.”