The women’s basketball team is off to a 10-1 start under the new direction of first-year Head Coach Justin Rees.
The ‘Cats are ranked No. 23 in the first NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 poll. The strengths of the squad rely on the highly experienced seniors according to Rees. The ‘Cats are led by seniors Caitlin Modesett, Jessica Zweifel and Julia Bannister. Modesett, last week’s Heart of America Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, averages 17.5 points per game along with 2.5 steals per game. Zweifel ranks third among the Heart in assists per game with 3.91.
“I want this program to be successful after I’m gone, so I need to make sure everyone that will be returning is bought in and willing to play the way Coach Rees wants,” said Zweifel.
Rees says defense adjustments led to their success. The ‘Cats have forced 145 steals throughout their 11 games, ranking them No. 1 within the Heart in amount of steals.
Consistency within shooting is where Rees says they can enhance their game. Rees has seen hints of improvement in recent games and hopes shots will begin to fall more frequently as the season progresses. Numbers have been limited throughout the beginning stages of the season due to injury, so Rees accredits the whole roster for contributing to their success.
“Each player has had a moment or a game or two where they’ve stepped up and been the reason we’ve either pulled out a win or held on to a win,” said Rees. “We’re a unit, and these are my kids and I’m their coach.”
Rees has been coaching for 19 years since he graduated college. Rees was familiar with Baker University after coaching at Missouri Valley College, another member of the Heart. Baker fans’ welcoming environment and their interest in women’s basketball are what drew him to this position. Rees acknowledges the seniors on the team for accepting him as their coach since this has been an adjustment for them.
The women’s team goals are to remain a high-caliber team while competing for The Heart title and a chance to appear in the national tournament another year.
The ‘Cats are 5-1 within the Heart and are set to take on Culver-Stockton College at noon in Canton, Missouri, on Saturday. They will return to Collins Gym at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday to challenge William Penn University, who is also 5-1 within the Heart.