With six seniors departing after this season, the future of Western women’s basketball is in the hands of three freshmen currently redshirting.
Guards Gracie Castaneda and Drew Morris along with forward Ndey Sonko have big shoes to fill in the coming years, especially after the team’s strong performance this season.
The Vikings have a 23-4 overall record and are 17-2 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
The Vikings suffered their first loss in 17 games against Alaska Anchorage in a thrilling match that went to double overtime, ending 75-72, Thursday, Feb. 23. The 17 game win streak was Western’s fourth longest streak in school history.
Castaneda said it’s an advantage to redshirt this year with six seniors since she’s learning not only basketball techniques, but also leadership qualities.
“I would say I have the same mentality of a player who is getting ready to go in. I don’t even think of, ‘Oh, I can’t play.’’
“They all contribute differently. Each person, each senior, is a different weapon to our team,” Castaneda said. “I look up to each and every one of them for different reasons.”
One thing Castaneda said she learned from the seniors is to hold each teammate accountable in their role. She said the team cares about each other, but will yell at each other in practice in order to bring out the best in the team.
Not being able to play can be frustrating to an athlete, but Sonko said she still feels like a part of the game even though she is not on the court.
“I don’t think there’s a different mentality I have. I see it as, ‘I’m on the team. I’m still involved with everything going on in the court,’” Sonko said. “I would say I have the same mentality of a player who is getting ready to go in. I don’t even think of, ‘Oh, I can’t play.’’’
Sonko said she is learning a lot from the experienced players, in particular from senior forward Tia Briggs. She said Briggs gives her all for the team and and provides them with leadership at the most crucial times.
Briggs is having a strong season, scoring double figures in 12 of her last 13 games. She also scored 17 points and got nine rebounds in the most recent game against Alaska Anchorage.
Looking forward, the loss of the six seniors could damage the Vikings, but Morris is optimistic about the future.
“I want to contribute whatever I can for my teammates and hopefully we can, all as a team, come together,” Morris said. “We will lose so many people and as a team [we] want to create the atmosphere we want for the next couple of years.”
With the regular season coming to a close, the GNAC tournament will begin Friday, March 3 at Saint Martin’s University.