Yamonie Jenkins makes a break for the basket in Ohio’s game against Western Michigan University on January 25, 2016. (Photo by Blake Nissen | File)
The class of 2017 – Quiera Lampkins, Jasmine Weatherspoon, Hannah Boesinger, Yamonie Jenkins and Tmisht Stinson – is gone.
That class was one of the most decorated in program history. Now, though, it’s time to start anew. Taylor Agler is the lone senior on the team, and seven returners join her.
Still, the Bobcats are motivated. Because Agler and the Bobcats are not pleased with how last season ended.
“Obviously last year was a failure for us,” Agler said.
Ohio was picked to finish third in the Mid-American Conference East division for this season’s preseason poll. The Bobcats will host Walsh in an exhibition game Nov. 4 to begin the season.
“One of the things we identified was that we need to have better team chemistry, not even just on the floor, but off the floor,” Agler said.
The Bobcats worked on team-bonding over the summer, and junior guard Dominique Doseck said the team recently carved pumpkins and went to a haunted house.
They are developing more team chemistry off the floor, which will help the youthful roster succeed. Five freshmen comprise the Bobcats’ class of 2021, and Meche’la Cobb, a redshirt freshman, is about to play her first season.
It’s a new team, even for the experienced players such as Agler and Doseck.
“It’s a lot of working in practice, and seeing who flows well where,” Doseck said. “And just learning how to read each other. It’s a lot of development in that aspect.”
Understanding where teammates are supposed to be on plays, or even where they like to catch the ball, is a process. But it’s a process that Ohio will have to go through.
“The more we work together, the more we’re going to develop that bond,” Doseck said.
Ohio ended last season with two straight losses, the first against Northern Illinois in the MAC Tournament, and the second against Penn State in the WNIT.
But last season is in the past, and guard Amani Burke isn’t trying to dwell on it. Lampkins, who led the team last season, is gone.
Burke, who’s only a sophomore, has been given leadership responsibilities and Agler has helped, too. Burke doesn’t have freshmen shadow her like a senior usually does.
But she said that the freshmen still listen to what she says.
“I’m like a teacher, but I’m also learning,” Burke said.
For a program that struggled before Bob Boldonbegan coaching in 2013 – even in his first season the Bobcats had nine wins – the Bobcats are aware of their status in the MAC. They won the conference tournament in 2015, and since then teams in the conference haven’t kneeled in reverence before them.
The Bobcats had 22 wins last season. For a program on the upswing, that would be an improvement. But the year before, in the 2015-16 season, they had 26. And the season before that, when the Bobcats won the MAC Tournament and made the NCAA Tournament, they had 27, the most wins in a season in program history.
The most decorated class in program history is gone. But the Bobcats’ winning culture isn’t.
“It will definitely be some ups and downs this year just because we’re so young,” Burke said. “But I really think that we don’t have a bad team this year.”