After coming off a run at the NCAA Division II National Championship, head coach Carmen Dolfo and the Western women's basketball team are focused on getting better every day by staying in the present moment.
“Our league is tough, and our region is tough,” Dolfo said. “So we really can’t afford to look beyond.”
This is reflective of Dolfo and the team’s approach that got them to the National Championship game last March where they lost to Glenville State.
“Through our run through regionals and the Elite Eight, we just focused on one game at a time, getting to play together and playing the hardest we could,” Dolfo said.
Dolfo, who is entering her 32nd year as the Western women’s head coach and has more than 600 career wins, said she doesn’t necessarily have an ultimate goal for her career. She just wants to put out the best basketball team possible every season.
Junior forward Brooke Walling, who won the West Regional Championships Most Valuable Player award last season, said the team had an underdog mindset throughout their run.
“We had that mentality that we had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Walling said.
While losing the National Championship game was tough, Dolfo said she was really proud of last year’s team.
“This was a really special and great group of women,” Dolfo said, “I was really proud of how they handled themselves, both as people and players.”
Although the Vikings are taking their season one game at a time, they have big ambitions for the upcoming season.
“The ultimate goal is to be just as or more successful than we were last year,” Walling said.
Two factors they hope to carry over from last year are excellent team chemistry and roster depth.
Senior guard Avery Dykstra said their on-court success is connected to their off-court friendships.
Dykstra also mentioned that the team bonded over adversities faced during last season, including the COVID-19 pandemic resurgence and a teammate suffering an ACL tear.
“We had to come together and really support each other,” Dykstra said. “I think that helped us on the court.”
Walling added that, “Nobody’s playing for themselves. We’re all playing for each other.”
The Vikings have 10 returning players from their National Championship runner-up roster that went 25-6 overall. They were also recently selected No. 1 in GNAC’s preseason rankings.
Dolfo said a big part of their success last season was their team’s depth, which helped her keep players fresh throughout the season. That depth should be an advantage again this season.
“We’re honestly 11 deep,” Dolfo said. “They all have different strengths. I think our depth is going to really help us again.”
Despite making it to the National Championship last year, the team lost in the GNAC Championship game to Central Washington University during the 2021-2022 season.
Dykstra, who won the GNAC’s Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2021-2022 season, said their big goal right now is to win the GNAC.
“That’s our goal every season,” Dykstra said. “And just keep going after that.”