New players grow together toward success

Four transfers and one junior make up the five starters on APU’s Women’s basketball team. Five players who had never suited up with each other before November have put together a 13-12 season so far, with a five-game win streak that ended only last week.

The team comprised of transfers Abigail Goodsell, Gabrielle Kaiser, Tara Casey, Casey Wortley and freshman Zoe March, struggled in the first half of the season, posting a 3-7 record through the first 10 games.

“It’s definitely been difficult,” Casey said. “I know at the beginning of the season we were really struggling, but the more we got to know each other and the more we got to play together, we got more cohesive.”

This cohesiveness has clearly showed as the team has posted a 10-5 record since that point. This included the five-game win streak, with three of those victories coming in double digit margins.

“We were just playing to the potential that we can achieve,” Wortley said. “We were playing with confidence. We have confidence in each other and it showed on the court.”

One of the victories came against Dominican, in a 97-93 win in double overtime. Casey noted the significance of this win.

“It really boosted our energy,” Casey said. “We were all super positive once we won each game.”

The momentum came to a halt on Feb. 6 against Hawaii Pacific, with a 48-76 loss. A second setback came three days later with a loss to Point Loma.

“After a big loss, it helps the team pull together and work a lot harder. So, we’re going to work a lot harder after those two losses,” Casey said.

Casey was not the only one who viewed the losses as an opportunity to improve. Freshman Zoe March, the youngest of the starting five, noted that it was a kind of blessing in disguise.

“Sometimes you gotta hit a low before you’re ready to climb. We hit that low and we’re ready to climb now,” March said.

March was not shy about admitting that the team didn’t play their best during those games. But she was just as confident in their ability to bounce back.

“I expect us to win our last four games,” March said. “I know we’re capable of doing so and I know that we’re going to come out and give it our best, so I expect us to win.”

She was not alone. Wortley noted the keys to winning after the two losses.

“We just need to focus on what we’re better at, how we work together, just keep fighting and it will work out in the end,” Wortley said.

Wortley emphasized the team working together. A redshirt sophomore transfer from Iona College in New York, she came to APU because it felt like the perfect fit.

“I came in not really knowing anybody,” Wortley said. “But we’re all learning. I feel like it all works out in the end, we’re all learning and growing together which is really nice. I think we’re all on the same page now.”

She leads the team in rebounds with 141, averaging 5.9 per game. Wortley also averages 7.8 points per game. She has been a strong presence on defense with the most defensive rebounds and second most blocks.

Casey has also had a significant impact on the court for the Cougars. She transferred from Irvine Valley College.

“I really liked the whole environment at APU, the God First [motto], and I knew they would be losing a lot of players. So, I figured it’d be fun to come here and create a new team,” Casey said.

Casey has been a big part of that new team, having played the second most minutes. She also has the second most three point baskets with 56 total, and averages 9.1 points per game. She and her teammates also helped freshman Zoe March get accustomed to the college game.

“It was difficult in the beginning just getting to know everyone,” March said. “But our team is full of girls who came in here with an optimistic viewpoint ready to learn about each other and get to know each other. We’re not trying to outplay one another. It helps coming on to a team whose focus is trying to win as a team and not individually.”

March emphasized how much the rest of the team has helped her, saying they were patient with her when she was adjusting to the pace of play of college basketball.

“Coming on to a new team has been a great experience for me,” March said. “I can call these girls my sisters and I’m honestly having a blast.”

March is averaging 7.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. She ranks second on the team in assists (94) and third in steals (44).

Transfers Abigail Goodsell and Gabrielle Kaiser round out the starting five. Goodsell leads the team in minutes played, points per game (15.2), three point baskets (67), assists (129), and is tied with Kaiser for the most steals (45). Kaiser averages 14.9 points per game and leads the team in free throws made (94), offensive rebounds (63), and blocks (41).

After two straight losses, the Cougars got back to their winning ways, defeating Concordia 77-65 in their final home game of the season.

With only three games left in the regular season, the team still has the possibility of making the conference playoffs, depending on how they finish.

The Cougars’ next game will be at Fresno Pacific on Feb. 18.

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