Quakers off to strong start despite youth


Abigail Bekele

First-year Brianna Allen searches for someone to pass the ball to during the Guilford College versus Hollins University on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. Guilford defeated Hollins 33-15 with Allen scoring four points.//Photo by Abigail Bekele/The Guilfordian

Guilford’s women’s basketball is back for a new season. The team is coming off an impressive 2016-2017 season in which they won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championship and earned a berth to the NCAA Division III tournament.

The team tipped off their season with a 56-49 home game loss against Hardin-Simmons in the Daly Seven Tip-Off Classic. The game was close in all four quarters, with Guilford leading at the start of the first, second and third quarters. Hardin-Simmons took the lead with about eight minutes left which left Guilford with their first loss. Guilford’s Miracle Walters was the home team’s top scorer with 17 points, a career high and shot 8 of 13. Close behind her were Lauren Ramsey and Essence Abraham who contributed 11 and 10 points.

They followed that the next day with an 80-41 win against La Roche. Guilford roared back after their opening loss. Lauren Ramsey led Guilford in scoring with 18 points, followed closely by Julie Carini and Monell Dunlap with 13 and Miracle Walters with 11. Guilford’s shooting was at 49 percent, while La Roche trailed far behind with only 24 percent.

This was followed with another home 63-51 win against North Carolina Wesleyan, a game which Guilford led all the way through. Wesleyan made a push for the game, cutting Guilford’s lead to 3 points with only a minute left. The home team cut them off at the pass with two baskets in the final minutes for the win.

Walters seemed encouraged about the team’s future after the first games.

“Our first three games have gone pretty well. We still have a long ways to go and a lot of things to improve on, but I think we’re starting to play more as a team offensively and defensively, which is really important if we’re going to have a successful season,” said Walters.

This is a rebuilding year for the Quakers. They graduated much of the team last year and begin this season with nine first-year players. But despite the team’s inexperience, they have high hopes for the season.

“I think it will be a learning experience for the (first-years) and for the whole team, but we will need them to step up and play with confidence and be smart on the floor. I’m hoping to see that from them,” said Walters.

First-year forward Erin Jeffers is confident that she and her fellow new players can do just that and help the team.

“It may be hard with a lot of us being (first-years), but we feel like we have talent,” said Jeffers.

Taking the lead may come sooner than they had anticipated as junior point guard Essence Abraham suffered an injury in the game against Wesleyan, and her return this season is unknown at this time. Head coach Stephanie Flamini felt that this was a blow to the team as they rely on Abraham’s leadership and experience, and it could alter the flow of the season.

“It is going to be a good year for the (first-years) to get a lot of experience and grow. They have a lot of potential, but we are going to take our lumps because of the inexperience. But it will pay off in a year or two,” said Flamini.

For now, they are keeping expectations at arm’s length in favor of focusing on integrating the new players and developing the team as a unit. When asked what is expected of the team for the first part of the season, Flamini emphasized small steps going forward.

“If we have a (championship) goal, it starts to put too much pressure on people. We’ve got to set realistic goals for now,” said Flamini.

Members of the team agreed with this sentiment.

“The (ultimate) goal is always to have a winning season and to do well. I think the goal right now is just to keep getting better every day, to get that team chemistry that we need,” said Walters.

“Everyone wants to win, but we just strive to get better every day through drills and reps,” said guard Alli Jackson.

This is a strategy that was used last season and is being carried forward this time around. Coach Flamini  said that the team isn’t looking at the post season much right now, but could be soon.

“When January gets here, depending on how we’re doing, we’ll start setting some goals for February when everyone is going after a championship,” said Flamini.

Coach Flamini emphasized a focus on team improvement and cohesion. She noted that with some playing time under their belts, the first-years would be able to start to blossom and could take more responsibility on the court.

“(Ramsey, Abraham and Walters are) going to be heavily relied upon in the beginning, and as we get towards January, those (first-years) start to kind of mold into not being (first-years) anymore,” Flamini said.

She was eager to see how the team will shape themselves going forward and how they’ll perform on the court. There are many others watching the team as well and guessing at how well they will do.

“Last year we were picked first (in the ODAC Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll), and this year we were picked fifth … You don’t have that target on your back,” Flamini said. “At the same time, we would like to surprise everybody and do better than they think.”

The team is also eager to prove themselves.

“We are really motivated by the people that expect us not to do well this season. We want to prove them wrong,” said Jackson.

With an injury to a top veteran and numerous inexperienced players, the season will be challenging, and they will have more to prove. However, they seem eager to try.