New Year, New Team: Wolverines Making Progress Under Sweeney

By JACK VANASSCHE, Staff Writer

Nine games deep in this 2016 season, the University of Michigan-Dearborn women’s basketball team has three wins—already one more win than their entire season last year.

To understand the gravity of three wins in nine games, understand that it took 22 games last season before the Wolverines won just one game.

“It feels great to be in a better position so early on in the season compared to last year,” said sophomore guard Kendall Rose.

“It takes a lot of the pressure off knowing we have already improved on last year and lets us go out and give it everything we’ve got.”

Through their first nine games this season, the Wolverines are averaging 61.2 points per game; up from 46 points per game through their first nine games last year.

To start last season, the Wolverines were outscored by an average of 37.7 points per game in nine consecutive losses.

This season, the Wolverines are being outscored by an average of only 0.6 points per game.

“Before, when they would go down early in a game they say, ‘Here we go again,’ but this season that hasn’t happened to us,” said UM-Dearborn head coach Jordan Sweeney.

“You don’t see us, when we get down by 10 or 15, we don’t mope and lose by 40. We believe and we’re going to fight through every game.”

Sweeney has worked hard since taking over the team full time before the season began.

Before the season started, he claimed that his team had been preparing earlier and more vigorously than they ever had before.

He claimed their weight training was more intense than it had been, and that summer games and scrimmages were taken as seriously as real games.

He even wore a suit to coach the alumni game.

All of these actions, he hoped, would change the culture of UM-Dearborn women’s basketball.

Asked what the secret to this season’s progress has been, Sweeney had a quick answer.

“Ultimately, it’s belief. Having belief in all of the hard work we’ve put in—that stuff carries over.”

Before, it was obviously tough to believe that the team could win games when for stretches as long as 21 straight games, they couldn’t.

Under Sweeney, players that experienced the worst of the losing streaks are noticing the change in the air.

“This year, the team brings a whole new level of energy,” said Rose, the team’s leading scorer.

“We are starting to realize the potential we have if we bring everything we have every day.  We have a changed mindset that looks more at improving and playing hard together rather than dwelling on past mistakes.”

Realizing what the Wolverines have on the court each night has become their strongest weapon in their first nine games.

Six Wolverines are averaging between seven and 9.5 points per game, meaning no one player is the featured scorer.

“Other teams don’t know who to take away,” said Sweeney. “And, honestly, it’s more fun when everybody is scoring.”

The Wolverines are averaging 0.7 assists for every turnover, which is their best ratio in the last six years.

Only 12 Division II teams in the country have more assists than the Wolverines’ 126 through nine games.

Sweeney believes that sharing the ball will continue to be key to the Wolverines’ success.

“When everyone touches the ball we work more as a team. They don’t worry about who drops 20, they worry about making the right basketball play.”

Defensively, UM-Dearborn ranks sixth among Division II teams in steals with 101.

The overall success of the team—in and out of the win column—has undoubtedly been a leap in the right direction for the program.

As they learn what they are capable of, look out for the Wolverines to be on the rise in the conference.

“We don’t want to stop at just a few more wins than last year,” said Rose.

“We want to be a playoff team who only continues to improve in the future.”

In that regard, the team is well on their way.