Mallory Nilles –– Staff writer
The Dordt University Women’s Basketball team is having a tremendous season, which is no surprise, since they were the national runner-up at the conclusion of last season. The Defenders plan to maintain this winning trend, evidenced by their capture the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) title on Feb. 11.
The win automatically secured them a ticket to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Basketball National Tournament starting in the first week of March.
When asked what is on the vision board for the 2022-23 season, senior guard Bailey Beckman was honest and determined.
“We want the national title,” Beckman said.
Capturing the GPAC title “[has] always been a goal and it feels good, but we also have larger goals in sight,” Beckman said, referring to the national title. Coming up short of being national champions is not something the team took lightly.
“Runner-up was a huge accomplishment, but we also understand that we still came up short,” junior shooting guard Macey Nielson said. “I think that knowing how close we were has impacted how hard & detailed we practice and how we know what we are capable of. It’s definitely been a good motivator to try to be even better every day.”
“Grit” is the word that describes this year’s team, according to Beckman, who just announced she will be returning for a fifth year after this season, along with forward and fellow senior Karly Gustafson. Nielson gave a similar answer when asked what stands out about this particular team.
“This group of girls is competitive, gritty, and hungry to continually get better. These qualities have really shown through this season as we’ve been challenged in games, but found ways to fight back,” Nielson said. Though their success on the court is remarkable, head coach Bill Harmsen says there’s more to this team than meets the eye.
“This team is so smart and connected,” Harmsen said. “They truly love and serve one another… They celebrate each other’s successes.”
The Defenders have a 20-2 conference record (26-2 overall) and are ranked fourth in the nation heading into the GPAC tournament, where they will play Doane in the opening round on Wed., Feb. 22. If the Defenders win, they will advance to play on Sat., Feb 25. The final championship game will be held on Tues., Feb 28.
Photo credit: Dordt University Athletics