Augustana men's, women's basketball teams ready for new season
Augustana University has created a culture of winning among its basketball programs, and the optimism runs rampant heading into the 2016-2017 season that the successful tradition will continue.
The Augustana Vikings men's team equaled the most wins in school history last season, finishing the year with a 29-2 record, tying the all-time mark set in the '72-'73 season. They were the top-ranked Division III school in the nation for nine weeks and finished the season ranked third overall. They won the regular season and tournament titles before losing in the quarterfinals of the NCAA bracket. When asked what he looks for in an Augustana player, head coach Grey Giovanine said, "We want high-character guys that have grit," and that toughness has shown with his successful senior class. In the season prior to the record-tying campaign, the Vikings earned an NCAA Final Four berth. The goals to build on that will be achieved as long as they "stay together and play as a team," Giovanine said.
Player Chrishawn Orange has a similar mentality. Despite having a new class of players coming in, he believes that team chemistry and practicing together will lead to positive results on the court.
"The biggest challenge for us will be coming together as a team because we have a lot of newcomers this year, so the quicker we can get them on board and into the system, that will make us the best team we can be," Orange said.
It looks to be business as usual to build on their storied history. Player Dylan Sortillo said the team will learn from its predecessors and trust in their new players to rebuild the franchise nicely, with a "next man up" mentality.
"I think our biggest roadblock would be our inexperience," Sortillo said. "We don't necessarily have a ton of court time, but our philosophy is 'next guy up.' We lost a lot of guys from last year's team, but I have all the confidence in myself and my teammates to step up when the time comes, especially all the hours put in this summer and fall, in addition to playing against those guys last year every day in practice, learning what it takes from one of the best classes in Augustana history."
The Augustana women have a harder hill to climb, coming off of a 10-15 season last year. But their five CCIW victories were the second most they've had since the '03-'04 campaign. They finished fourth in the conference and are trending upward. Player Jennifer VanWatermeulen believes they can continue to gain momentum as they work together in the team system, on and off the court.
"Our team mantra is 'Relentless' -- don't give up and always keep going," VanWatermeulen said.
Guard Torie Allen said the team had a lot of ground to make up for after losing their leading scorer a year ago, but that they have a lot of experienced players who are ready to take on the task by working hard and playing one possession at a time.
"We are always talking about playing one possession at a time," Allen said. "Basketball is a game of possessions, and the way we see it, if you mess up on offense during a play, you work extra hard on defense in the next possession. We are constantly telling each other to look forward to the next possession and not to the previous ones. Another team mantra that we tend to go by is putting the team first. When the team is successful, everyone is successful. It is crucial that we focus on the team first, and ourselves individually second. I am because We are."
That team-first mentality looks to gear the 'Augies' up by focusing on fundamentals.
Head Coach Mark Beinborn talks about preparation through individual assignments and scouting. The Augustana ladies are praised in the locker room and the CCIW for their intangibles and willingness to get gritty when it counts.
"We believe that winning is a byproduct of doing things the right way, so we really focus on doing the little things consistently," Beinborn told Rock Island Today. "It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of what people may view as a big game or some tough and adverse times within a game. Staying focused on the little things that can lead to success is the key.
The men's schedule kicks off Nov. 15, while the women open up their season on Nov. 19.
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