Hopes were high at the beginning of the season.
The Western men’s basketball team was ranked ninth in the Sporting News Preseason NCAA Division II Top 10 Poll and there was a lot of young talent on the team.
“We came in believing we could go all the way,” said sophomore forward Jeffrey Parker, regarding the team winning the Division-II Championship.
Parker and his teammates got off to a solid start and won eight of their first 10 games.
But senior forward Anye Turner could tell the team wasn’t living up to their full potential, as the Vikings went on to lose six of their next 10 games to bring their record to 12-8.
“The first 20 games were hard,” Turner said. “We went through a lot of adversity through those games, and we eventually figured it out.”
The adversity the Vikings faced were players accepting their roles and general team chemistry, according to sophomore forward Joey Schreiber.
Schreiber himself had to accept a bench role towards the beginning of the season.
“It was definitely tough at first to accept,” Schreiber said. “I always want to start, but I knew adding a spark off the bench was what I needed to do.”
Turner said that Schreiber accepting his role on the bench was a pivotal part towards the Vikings success later in the season.
“For how talented he is to accept that role off the bench was extremely important for the team all season,” Turner said.
Schreiber’s acceptance wasn’t the only change of heart on the team midway through the season. After the team lost to the University of Alaska Anchorage at home at the end of February, the team had enough of losing.
“We decided we wanted to win,” Parker said.
From there, the Vikings won 10 in a row, and made the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament where they eventually lost to Seattle Pacific University.
The 10 game winning streak was part of a pivotal attitude change around the team. Turner said that every player was asking coaches and teammates how to get better.
“Lot’s of guys matured,” Turner said. “We definitely grew as a team.”
Schreiber said that another pivotal part of the season was the win against Seattle Pacific University in Seattle. Schreiber said that the win led to a large boost in confidence that helped carry them throughout the GNAC Tournament.
In the end, the Vikings didn’t live up to their lofty preseason expectations, however, the team felt much more comfortable and learned many lessons through their rough start.
“We learned that we had to stay together through the adversity and other issues,” Parker said. “We also learned to trust coach [Tony Dominguez].”
Parker and Schreiber are both returning to the team next season and have similar expectations as they did this season.
“We have a lot of high expectations for next season,” Parker said. “Guys know and understand their roles by now.”
Schreiber said that the team still has to learn a lot and replacing Turner won’t be easy, but he still has the same expectations that Parker has.
Turner describes this last season as a positive learning experience even though it didn’t meet his expectations.
“Overall, it was an extremely fun season with my team,” Turner concluded with a smile.